Katrina Nannestad, Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief, HarperCollins Publishers, October 2021, 320 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780733341465
Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief follows the story of Sasha, a 6 year old Russian boy who’s left to fend for himself in the midst of World War 2. One day, Sasha returns from an afternoon of playing in the sunflower fields to find his entire village, his family, and everything he has ever known to be gone – reduced to rubble and ash at the hands of the Nazis.
Sasha is adopted as a soldier into the Red Army, where he spends his days being of as much assistance as possible, by bringing hope and smiles to the faces of weary soldiers. His chirpy presence has so much of an impact that he earns the warranted title of ‘The Angel of Stalingrad’ and becomes an inspiration for both German and Red Army soldiers alike. He soon finds a family within the army, and is much loved and adored by his newfound father figure, ‘Papa Scruff’.
Katrina Nannestad, author of award-winning We Are Wolves has expertly composed this novel, tackling heavy themes in a most tender manner. While this book is fictional, it was inspired by the life of a real boy in World War 2, who lost his family but became a member of the Red Army and was known for his bravery and endless love. Sasha’s character entirely reflects that of the real boy, Sergey Aleshkov.
There are several things that I enjoyed about this novel. I loved the authenticity of Sasha’s voice, since as a 6 year old, his thought process was rather amusing and innocent, which I believe will appeal to a young audience. Sasha’s character is very entertaining, and is sure to evoke both giggles and tears from readers. Mostly, however, I loved the main message behind this novel; it is not the people who are the enemy, it is the war, and this hatred can only be combatted with love. This moving novel would be a perfect classroom read for upper-primary.
Reviewed by Olivia Sammut