Book review by Aarene Storms: Words on Fire

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The year is 1893, and 11-year-old Audra lives quietly with her parents in Russian-occupied Lithuania. The czar is determined to obliterate all traces of Lithuanian culture. All things Lithuanian are banned: the language, the religion, even the books of the conquered country, and soldiers will use any excuse -- or no excuse at all -- to harass, arrest, and even kill peasants who show signs of resistance.

When Audra's parents are arrested and shipped out to Siberia, she falls in with a peculiar band of criminals who sneak into adjacent Prussia and buy books to smuggle back to their homeland. The task is dangerous, probably even deadly, but Audra insists that it is a task her parents would want her to undertake.

This story of war and resistance is well-researched and well-told. Audra's growth from timid child to cunning smuggler is inspiring, and the end of the book (while statistically unlikely) is satisfying for readers invested in the story.
Recommended for ages 12 to adult, especially those who "want another" after reading Between Shades of Gray (Sepetys) and The War That Saved My Life (Bradley).
No cussing, no kissing, no nekkidness, but plenty of frightening scenes of injury, violence, and death.

The events may not have happened; still, the story is true. --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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