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Rabbit, Soldier, Angel Thief

2023 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief by Katrina Nannestad was inspired by a real-life WWII story about a boy named Sergey Aleshkov, The Angel of Stalingrad. This historical fiction novel is told, so skilfully, through the eyes of six-year-old Sasha, an orphaned Russian boy. Sasha, whose life has been torn apart by the arrival of German soldiers in the spring of 1942 is adopted by a band of weary but empathetic Red Army soldiers. The story begins, however, in a hospital where Sasha is recovering. He has lost much of his memory, and it is from his hospital bed that we learn about his short but eventful life as his memories gradually return. 

This is a beautiful, well researched, heart-warming story. Nannestad cleverly guides the reader through a narrative filled with hope and human pathos. Sasha’s perspective never sways from that of a boy his age and it’s a convincing portrayal of how a child could view such a chaotic time; ‘And that’s when I know that they are monsters — monsters disguised as princes,’ he declares about the newly arrived German troops. Despite the toll of warfare, this little soldier’s optimism and compassion rub off on those around him. It’s a visually rich, poignant story, that places the reader right in the middle of the period without having to venture into the utter sadness and horror that war entails. A stunning read.