A Year Without Mom
Written and Illustrated by: Dasha Tolstikova
Published by: Groundwood Books
Published on: October 6, 2015
For as long as I can remember, I have been captivated by Russia. In the early 90s, when this book is set, I was reading everything I could get my hands on about Russia. I was taking Russian lessons at my local community centre, I was practicing cyrillic handwriting, I was reciting Pushkin poems into my mirror. I knew about 19th century poets and composers, I knew about uskoreniye and the political players of the time.
What I didn't know about was what it was like to be a kid like me in Russia. Turns out that in some ways it was pretty similar to being a kid like me in Canada. Studying and too scared to skip school with my friends. Crushes on boys who aren't worth it.
This Dasha comes to life through Tolstikova's black and white drawings with authenticity and exuberance. This Dasha is like Angela Chase, if Angela were a Musocovite dealing with her parents not splitting up but moving across the world.
It was that moving across the world that made me interested in the book in the first place. In the international families I know, there are so many instances of kids and parents being separated for economic or personal necessary. Whether kids being sent back to grandparents to learn a minority language, or a mother going abroad for work, or so many other reasons, temporary separation from parents seems pretty common among families like mine. But I had never seen it in a children's book before, and I am happy that Tolstikova has chosen to share her biography with us.