A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First Published: October 1st, 2015
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Memoir, Family, Growing Up
It is the early 1990s in Moscow, and political change is in the air. But Dasha is more worried about her own challenges as she negotiates family, friendships and school without her mother. Just as she begins to find her own feet, she gets word that she is to join her mother in America — a place that seems impossibly far from everything and everyone she loves.
I only realized this was a memoir when I finished the story, went back to read the author’s name and made the connection.
And suddenly, what I just read about seemed much more interesting. To me, a true story will always be worth more than a fictional one.
In this graphic memoir we meet Dasha, a twelve-year-old girl who lives with her mother, grandma and grandpa. But her mother decides to do a master’s degree in the United States, leaving Dasha behind in Russia.
It’s hard for her, since her father isn’t in the picture either. Actually, we are not given much detail about him. We see him only once, and learn where he lives, but we are not told about where he and Dasha’s mother stand.
Regardless, I learned a lot about Dasha from this book. I liked that she wasn’t easily influenced. When her two best friends decided to skip class, she didn’t (except for that one time, which served her as a lesson). For her, education is extremely important, which I admired, as I agree.
She misses her mother tremendously. Although one could argue that she does have two remaining family members with her, so she isn’t alone-alone, children do not have the same relationship with their grandparents as they do with their actual parents. So I understood her loneliness.
Beautiful, atmospheric illustrations. The writing is extremely simple, but effective. A quick, engaging read.
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