I'm thrilled to have a new friend on today, Eugene Yelchin, author/illustrator of the Newbery Honor winning BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE. He has a new book out called ARCADY'S GOAL and he dropped by to talk about it...
Given the fact that I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, and the even more unfortunate fact that I had to survive in that country until I finally left at 27 years old, it comes at no surprise that my books are a meditation on the unalienable rights — Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The pursuit of Happiness takes many forms in America. A current form that’s getting a lot of attention is soccer. Soccer is something I know about. My father was a fairly well known soccer player and captain of the Red Army Soccer Club. For years he trained me to become a soccer player until he realized that I would rather draw pictures on my soccer ball than kick it.
In ARCADY'S GOAL, a Russian boy dreams of becoming a soccer champion. “The trouble with soccer,” says Arcady, “is you can’t play it alone. Soccer is a team sport.” Being a member of a team is a problem for Arcady, who has never been permitted to be a member of anything. As a child of the enemies of the state in the pre-World War II Russia, he is excluded not only from being on a soccer team but from what most of us take for granted—being a member of a family. Family, the most essential fabric of humanity, is torn apart by the Soviet state and remade into a highly politicized entity. As a result, for Arcady and the man who adopts him, creating a family of their own let alone a children’s soccer team is extremely dangerous.
In this lies the paradox of telling young American readers stories about freedom. To them being a member of a family or a member of a sports team are basic unalienable rights. My hope is that in looking through the eyes of Arcady, they might view those rights in a slightly different light. They might become more attentive to what they inherited. They might consider that preserving those rights requires personal courage. They might not take the pursuit of Happiness so lightly. That in fact, as Arcady shows, Happiness is sometimes only achieved at great risk of both life and Liberty.
LISTEN TO AN AUDIO SAMPLE OF ARCADY'S GOAL - Click the image to listen on YouTube:
Here is Eugene with his boys:
And here are shots of Eugene's studio (click the image to see it larger in a new window):
LISTEN to a great interview with Eugene at LET'S GET BUSY PODCAST!
Macmillan has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of ARCADY'S GOAL to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below: