A Radioactive Read

By Casey Froehlich, Intern

The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, has come to be known as the worst of its kind in recorded history. As tragic as the event was, how often do we stop to consider how many young children were forced to struggle through such an adult situation, and, in many cases, forced to bury their childhoods with their homes? Although most children are eager to “grow up,” what happens when childhood is not shrugged off but ripped away?

Radiant Girl considers these questions, giving us the answers in Katya Dubko. In her native village Yanov, located in Vinnytska, Ukrain, Katya is captivated by her grandmother Vera’s magical stories of domovyks (house elves). Her playmates are the spirits of the forest and stream. She has a few friends in her village as well, and works hard at school. All this changes when she meets a boy in the woods with eyes too big and blue and hair that is too blonde. He is both more real, and more magical, than any of her imaginary woodland friends. When he warns her of a coming disaster she does her best to convince herself that her imagination is only acting up again, but somehow this feels different. Her worst fears are confirmed only days later when her life changes forever.

The story unpacks itself for the reader just like the matryoshka, or nesting doll, on its cover. Written in an easy to read style without dumbing anything down for its audience, Radiant Girl is best suited for children age nine to twelve while easily captivating young adults as well. It includes a handy glossary of both English and Russian terms that those unfamiliar with the Chernobyl Disaster or nuclear power will find more than helpful.

While this may seem like a dark topic for younger readers, keep in mind that not all history is pretty. Yet, just as Katya learned, that does not make it any less important. Being mindful of the past is imperative to creating a better future. The best place to start—informing those who will be creating that future.

Bright Sky Press
Where Texas Meets Books History.