Valentina knows right away that morning that something is wrong. Her mother tries to make excuses for why her father didn’t come home the night before from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where he works. But even though Valentina has been told over and over again that the plant is safe and that nothing could ever happen, she clearly sees a fire in the distance, where the plant is located. Still, her mother insists that she go to school like usual. When she gets outside, things are even stranger. There is a weird smell to the air and even the color of the sky is wrong. And where are the birds, which was her first hint something was wrong?
At school, the girl who seems to hate her the most, Oksana, appears determined to create a problem between them, yet again. Valentina is worried about her father, and she wonders if Oksana’s father returned from the plant since he works with Valentina’s father. Oksana has her own worries, as her father is missing too. But she has other reasons to be concerned about whether or not he will return.
What neither girl knows is that the plant has had a terrible disaster, one that will impact the rest of their lives forever and bring them together in ways they never could have imagined.
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman shows how the Soviet Government controlled all aspects of their citizens lives and how two girls had to try to survive once everything changed. This was a fascinating and really good read.
Recommended for grades 6 and up.