Sadly, sometimes a book has run its course with us at the store and we prep it for returns. Occasionally, I grab one (or six, but this review is about just one) and see if I can give it a second chance. And while I cannot give A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova a second chance at the store, I can let you fine folks know about it.
I did not love this book. Part novel, part picture book, part graphic novel, part art book, and part something else, it feels like a journal of the ups and downs of Dasha’s life during the year her mother left their home in Russia to study in America.
Dasha (the character) is a typical kid that you could find anywhere in the world really. While political upheaval is happening in her country, Dasha is more worried about boys, friends, school, and her art school. Just the normal, everyday is what she focuses on. Not that the countries leaders are being ousted. Or why the new leader, Yeltsin, is better than the old leader, Gorbachev. As someone who lived during his time and probably around the same age as the author, I was curious how she was affected by this.
The text and art are basic and simple. The use of red is used to highlight things that are important to the illustration/information being presented. Much of the story is not “spoken” but told via the art. But other than one or two places with blue being used, the book is blacks, whites, and grays. The cover shows you what you will expect on the pages inside.
Overall, this is not a horrible book. But it is also not an OMG THIS ROCKS book for me. I think ages 10 to adult can appreciate and find something relatable. The younger reader will relate to the obvious themes and adults will appreciate the growing up aspects (Dasha is around 12, going on 13, and we know how those years can go…).