Yelchin, Eugene. Genius Under the Table, The: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Eugene Yelchin, Illus. Biography. Candlewick, 10/2021. 201pp. $16.99. 978-1-5362-1552-6. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 5-9.
Yelchin’s memoir of growing up Jewish in 1960s Communist Leningrad, USSR, mixes personal stories with comments on the Cold War and related politics in this warm and revelatory book. He describes his brother’s success as a figure skater, his own attempt as a ballet dancer, and discovery of his artistic talent. Talent is thought of as a way out of his oppressive conditions, where Yelchin’s family lives in one room, and he sleeps under the table. The writing captures the honest voice of a young teen struggling to understand all of this, tempered with humor and affection for his family. The chapters are augmented with ink cartoon drawings on nearly every page which help convey the story. From the Newbery Honor author of Breaking Stalin’s Nose (Holt, 2011).
Penny Peck, San Jose State University, iSchool