A gripping account of the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Szablya, who escaped from Hungary during the revolution, and Anderson (Safe At Home!
, 1992, etc.) tell the story of Stephen, a 14-year-old freedom-fighter whose father was taken away years before. Memories of that trauma haunt his dreams, but his waking hours are even more of a nightmare as he learns to face death and to kill.
With an unerring ability to convey the reality of Stephen's hopeless cause without wallowing in excessive gore, the authors effectively portray the street battles, the lurking in basements, the casual and senseless brutality and destruction, and yet the humanity of both the oppressed and the oppressors. It is an intimate story; Stephen and his family and friends struggle to win, to survive, and ultimately to escape, but only hints of the larger sweep of events penetrate the ruined buildings of their Budapest neighborhood. A page-turner from beginning to end, Stephen's story is a powerful introduction to an important event in history.
--Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1995
This novel of the 1956 failed revolution of the Hungarians against the Soviets is told from the point of view of 14-year-old freedom fighter Stephen Kovary, whose father was abducted by the Security Police eight years earlier. Nightmares of that night weave through the boy's thoughts, along with hopes that his father is still alive. Stephen feels that his world has gone crazy as he makes Molotov cocktails, kills a man, saves a friend's life, delivers his sister's baby, and manages a harrowing escape through the swamps to Austria. An epilogue reveals that, like the Kovarys, 200,000 Hungarians escaped after the uprising, as did Szablya herself. Much of the book is based on her experiences. This no doubt accounts for its ring of authenticity, and for the wonderful portrayal of Stephen's wide range of emotions. The author's view is balanced, as well; the Soviet soldiers are presented as multidimensional and human. This is an excellent story--it is exciting and personal, and conveys a deep sense of the great gift of freedom.
--School Library Journal , February 1996,
Connie Tyrell Burns,
Mahoney Middle School,
Fourteen-year-old Stephen, an aspiring musician, becomes a freedom fighter in the Hungarian rebellion against the Soviets in 1956. He and his friends learn to make Molotov cocktails, kill (despite agonizing remorse), and make coffins and bury the dead. Stephen's personal life is also in an uproar: he helps deliver his sister Maria's baby, and his father returns after being in prison for years. There's a thrilling escape, based on the experiences of Szablya's family, with Stephen's family fleeing by truck, by boat, and on foot through a swamp. The authors do a good job of conveying the horrors of modern-day urban warfare, which turns familiar surroundings into a battle zone, and readers learn some recent history as well as gain poignant insight into the making of everyday heroes. Glossary included.
--Booklist, February 1, 1996,
Susan Dove Lempke
This fast paced novel tells the story of fourteen-year-old Stephen and his desperate attempt to survive during the Hungarian rebellion against the Soviets in 1956. Based on the author Helen Szablya's family escape from Hungary, it portrays the horrors of war that transforms young Stephen, an aspiring musician, from a schoolboy to a Freedom Fighter. He learns how to make Molotov cocktails, shoot guns, and helps to deliver his sister's baby. The story is filled with suspense as Stephen and his family travel by truck through a swamp to escape into Austria. This historical novel gives the reader a sense of how young people bravely faced the danger of everyday life in Hungary during the Russian occupation of their country. Includes map and glossary. Grades 5-8.
--Catholic Library World, September 2002,