City of Fate
The fight for Stalingrad, August 1942 to February 1943, was one of the defining battles of the Second World War for a number of reasons – most of them grim. It is the sort of bloody and brutal conflict that you would not expect to find in a children’s book. However, given that any discussion of World War II will likely turn to Stalingrad at some point, it is a very good idea to give children some idea of what was at stake, who fought, and what it may have been like to be there.
City of Fate tells its story from the Soviet point of view but only sketches in the political backdrop. It focuses on the feelings and experiences of children who find themselves caught up in the battle. A teenage boy and girl take charge of an orphaned five-year old, who is clearly suffering from trauma, and a class of boys finds itself drafted to fight right onto the front line – in the famous ‘Pavlov’ house. For the children, as for the real-life participants at Stalingrad, “there is no turning back”.
Nicola Pierce makes good use of the pressure cooker atmosphere of the city to bring the children, and the struggle they face, to life. The reader cares about what will happen to them. Their situations are not sugar-coated, but neither are they too distressing to read. It should encourage children aged 12-14 to find out more both about Stalingrad and about the wider Second World War.