The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin

Published by Candlewick Press

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain: Yelchin,  Eugene, Yelchin, Eugene: 9781536215526: Amazon.com: Books
The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain: Yelchin,  Eugene, Yelchin, Eugene: 9781536215526: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Eugene Yelchin tells the story of his early years in 1960’s Leningrad, living with his mother, father, older brother, and grandmother in a single room with a communal kitchen and bathroom.  His brother is a figure skating star, but Yevgeny’s talents prove elusive until his father discovers his sketches on the underside of their big table.  He’s declared an artistic genius and begins taking art lessons.  As Yevgeny matures, he slowly starts to learn the truth about why his mother was never able to have the ballet career she dreamed of, why his grandfather has been cut out of all the family photos, and why his family is often the target of anti-Semitic slurs.  Despite a family tragedy, the end of the story finds Yevgeny feeling optimistic about the future, leaving the reader with a sense that there may be a sequel in the future.  208 pages grades 4-8.

Pros:  There’s plenty of humor in both the text and the many illustrations of this memoir, but the fear and poverty of Cold War Soviet life is seamlessly woven into the story.  Definitely a Newbery contender.

Cons:  Many readers will be unfamiliar with the setting and may need some help in understanding what’s going on in Yevgeny’s life.

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