The Story That Cannot Be Told

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

The Story That Cannot Be Told
by J. Kasper Kramer

Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Children’s Fiction

Pub Date 08 Oct 2019

I am reviewing a copy of The Story That Cannot Be Told through Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Netgalley:

Ileana collects stories, some are about the past, before the leader of the country
tore down her home, the home she loved to make room for his Golden Palace, when people had enough work, and running water that worked more than just on Saturday Nights! The other stories she collected were the Folk tales she was named for, the stories her Father used to tell her when she was a little girl. But there are stories that can get you into trouble especially when they are like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s communist government that her Uncle Andrei had published right before he went missing.

Ileana’s parents make the drastic decision to send Ileana to live with her grandparents, grandparents she had never met, far from the prying eyes of the secret police and their spies who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away and Ileana soon finds herself having to tell the most important story of her life in order to save her family and her village.

I give The Story That Cannot Be Told five out of five stars!

Happy Reading
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I struggled a little with this one. It's not that it was foreign. While I wasn't familiar with Romania in the 80's I got the sense of the culture. I can see the intent behind the novel as well, the messages about the power of story and the way they are told, the intent behind them and the fear and complexity of living under a totalitarian regime, the complexity of familial relationships. It's just a complex read and hard to point to the right audience.
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Based on past books that we have had on the list, I think kids will get into the adventure and tension in this book.  It reminds we of Night Divided and Cloud and Wallfish.  This has the added bonus of adding in folklore and story.  We will have to see what else rises to the top in the historical fiction category.
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I love finding a read aloud that is entertaining and teaches about cultures, values, or history. The Story That Cannot Be Told did all three. Reading it as a family or class provides an excellent chance to talk about concepts of choice and individuality, how to treat others, and the role of government in our lives.

All my kids, except my toddler, found this book quite interesting. My second grader, Rebekah, stayed to listen most of the time but decided the book was just okay. The other children, fifth grade through college age, were eager to listen and even took turns reading aloud.

While the child Ileana’s story unfolds, it is interspersed with chapters from an enchanting fairytale about her namesake Princess Ileana. My children enjoyed looking for the foreshadowing elements. The tales are humorous and a little gruesome but mostly end happily for the important characters. The real life story and fairytale talk about death and disfiguration, which is appropriate I think given the setting, but are not overly gory.

The Story That Cannot Be Told and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak both have a serious tone mixed with subtle humor, a story within a story form, and death as a constant threat. I only noticed one use of a biblical swear word, which is a marked improvement over the casual habit Rosa Hubermann uses in swearing at everyone in The Book Thief. 

I hope J. Kasper Kramer writes more thought-provoking books balanced with traditional family values.

I received a free advanced reader copy of this book. All opinions are completely my own.
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A slow and thoughtful read. One where events unfold with care and the importance of storytelling is highlighted.
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As much as I appreciate this book for providing a glimpse into a part of modern European history that has eluded me, I can't recommend it to the target audience. It's far too long, confusing at times, and doesn't effectively explain the nature of the conflict.

As the story unfolds Ileana is mostly confined to her city apartment as the freedoms she once enjoyed slowly erode. She passes the time by writing stories and sharing them with her parents. The socialist Romanian government demands conformity and punishes anyone who speaks out against it. Before long her uncle is on the run and her house is being watched. Then her father does the unforgivable. He destroys the book with all of her stories. 

As the conflict continues, Ileana's parents send her to the countryside hoping she will be safe with her grandparents. Eventually, even the villages are being surveilled and controlled by the government. Her uncle visits briefly, hiding a manifesto under the floor for Ileana to protect. Soldiers search the homes looking for her uncle and seizing property at will. Ileana is in a difficult situation. If she turns over the document, will it save her uncle or ensure his death?

This was a confusing book to say the least. There are flashbacks and folklore that interrupts the flow of the story. Descriptions of a white wolf were particularly confusing. There were times when I didn't know whether Ileana was telling a story, dreaming, or in reality. For example, when she found her uncle held captive in the woods, I first thought it was a dream. As for the historical background in which all of this happens, I didn't get a clear picture. I had to consult Wikipedia for Romanian history and the revolution of 1989.

This is a story suited better for adults. I don't know a single child who will read this.
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Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.

From the first time I heard about this book, I was intrigued. A middle grade historical fiction novel set in Communist Romania? That’s a little different from what I usually read, and a little different from what I usually see floating around the book blogging world.

The thing is, I’ve been in kind of an extended reading slump for a few months now. It’s very rare that I want to pick up a book for more than a few minutes at a time, but this one had me hooked from the first page. Quite honestly, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if I hadn’t had other things to do.

So, where do I even start with this review? I guess, first, I’ll talk about Ileana and what a great heroine she was. Sure, she’s a great storyteller. But she’s also smart and perceptive and a little bit sassy, and above all, she’s a normal little girl. She makes mistakes and lives through the consequences. She questions the Communist government that she’s grown up in without it feeling forced or overly political. Her character growth over the course of this book is incredible and I was so, so proud of her by the end of the book.

The next thing I want to talk about is the story itself. I’ve never read a book quite like this before, and I think that was another thing that kept the pages turning. Not only was there the story of Ileana moving from the city to the country to (hopefully) escape the Romanian Securitate, but interspersed throughout the story are chapters of Romanian folktales, which I loved. Toward the end of the book, I actually got goosebumps reading about how everything played out.

As always, I want to avoid spoilers, so I’m going to cut myself off here. I’ll end by saying that this is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.
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This was a hard, hard book for me to read. I was born and raised in a communist governed country and my family did not belong to any sort of a resistors groups. My whole childhood, I read books about communists being our saving grace and about children heroes who turned in their parents. It all went down by the time I turned 11. This book brought to the surface the opposite view of the communists and the secret police, the resistors, the helplessness against the government. It's not that I did not know things, it has just been so many years since I spent any amount of time truly reflecting back on the history - as well as drawing parallels to some current world situations. 
The writing itself is exemplary. The two Ileana stories that intricately intertwine are a treat - the fairy tales making me chuckle. 
In my opinion, this book would probably be best for about 12 year olds and up. It is so deep that I am afraid younger children would not be able to appreciate everything that is being described.
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Ileana’s story is that of a girl in Romania during the few months before and up to the time the Communist regime under “The Leader” ended in 1989. Fearing for their daughter’s safety, Ileana’s parents devise a plan to keep her out of harm’s way, sending her across the country by train. Having only lived in city apartments, Ileana must adjust to life farming the countryside with her grandparents and the other villagers. 

The book is about Ileana and her relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. While it touches on some aspects of 1989 Communist Romania, such as media censorship, food rationing, and a military presence, it doesn’t read like a history book. Some might prefer this, but I would have liked to learn more about what was taking place in that part of the world at that time. The name of “The Leader” (Ceaușescu) isn’t mentioned in the story, nor are specific dates or factual events which lends itself to feeling less authentic, in my opinion. I liked the characters and the story, but feel like opportunities were missed in which to teach more about Eastern Europe and it’s history during this time in Ileana’s life. 

Thanks to Atheneum Books for Young Readers of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division and NetGalley for the provided e-ARC and the opportunity to read this book. My review is honest, unbiased, and voluntary. #NetGalley #TheStoryThatCannotBeTold


                            
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Ileana and her family live in Communist Romania in 1989, a perilous place for storytellers and rebels alike. When the family learns that they are in the crosshairs of the government’s secret service, they send Ileana to live with her grandparents in a remote village deep in the countryside. Yet, risk and danger follow on Ileana’s heels, forcing her to make decisions with potentially dire consequences.

J. Kasper Kramer’s The Story That Cannot Be Told is a gripping tale that will engage readers with its imaginative and bold perspective of a young heroine. The writing is nothing short than masterful, leaving its readers engrossed in a world both true and whimsical as the author weaves history with folktales. Ileana’s story is must read, and it will challenge people to not only reconsider the stories they have been told but also, like Ileana, contemplate the ones yet waiting to be told.
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Ileana, the main character loves to tell stories.  But in communist Romania  in 1989 stories are dangerous.  After her uncle goes missing after publishing a controversial poem Ileana is sent away to live with grandparents she has never met. But danger follows Ileana.  As she tells the story she weaves in folk tales that move the main plot along. Ileana, the princess in the folk tales is cunning and strong. Her story mirrors the clever thinking that Ileana also uses to thwart the communist regime.  I loved that this story wove in folk tales. The pace picked up about halfway through  with many revelations that make this a great read.
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This book was beautiful, gripping, and sweet. It will appeal to both young readers and older readers for the strong heroine, the whimsical fairy tales incorporated throughout, and historical content. I will recommend it to everyone!
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