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Stalingrad snipers were legends in their time. Their patience, keen eyes, and ruthlessness helped win the Battle of Stalingrad and turn the tide of the Second World War. James Riordan visited Stalingrad in 1959 and several times later. In 2006 he met Tania Chernova, whose story was so fascinating that Riordan made her the heroine of this compelling novel. The year is 1942. Legendary sniper Vasily Zaitsev, who killed a record 242 Nazis, recruits Tania to seek out and shoot German officers. At first, she finds it almost impossible to kill. But when she discovers that her beloved grandparents, along with many of her friends, have been brutally murdered by invading Nazis, she vows to break them like sticks.” Following her capture and daredevil escape, she leads a handpicked unit on what seems like a suicide mission to seize Field Marshall Paulus, the Commander-in-Chief of the invading army. But Tania is no ordinary marksman. Author Riordan’s dramatic narrative and wealth of period detail make this story of one of the lesser-known episodes in World War II history a gripping one.
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James Riordan has traveled the world collecting folktales and has published over thirty volumes of tales from different countries. The Twelve Labours of Hercules won the UK Reading Association Award 1998. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Surry and Visiting Professor at the University of Worcester, as well as holding honorary degrees from Birmingham, London, Moscow and Grenoble. He regularly reviews children's books for The Times., and his autobiography, Comrade Jim: the spy who played for Spartak, was published in 2008 by Fourth Estate.From School Library Journal:
Grade 9 Up—A story based on a real Russian teen, Tania Chernova, who served as a sniper between the years 1942 and 1943, defending Stalingrad from the invading Germans. Riordan's attention to detail in both the military and civilian arenas creates a seamless narrative that almost reads like a diary. Elements such as the differences between the sounds of a Russian aircraft and an enemy aircraft, the palpable anxiety felt by Russians when speaking ill of the government, and the survival techniques used by civilians and soldiers alike strengthen readers' connection with Tania Belova and her environment. Riordan's development of her character, from a girl uncertain about her duties as a sniper to one who, after seeing the death of her comrades and a loved one, has the courage to defend her people at all costs; his realistic portrayal of war; and his well-integrated historical facts make this work remarkable. The book concludes with a note about the real Tania and others from her story. Readers who choose to delve into the sniper's world will not be disappointed.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
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