HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Ivan and the American Journey
Author: Myrna Grant
Publisher: CF4Kids, republished in 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0613800679 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0613800672 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1845501310 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1845501314 (Paperback)
Related website: http://www.christianfocus.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Grant, Myrna. Ivan and the American Journey (originally published in 1988; republished in 2001 by Christian Focus Publications Ltd., Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland IV20 1TW). Twelve-year-old Ivan Nazaroff lives in Moscow, Russia, then part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with his Poppa, Momma, and sister Katya. It is during the days of Mikhail Gorbachev’s time of glasnost. The Nazaroffs are believers or Christians. Because Ivan is not part of the Communist Young Pioneers, he gets to play soccer only because he is so good, and now his history essay earns him an All-Moscow Prize with a five week school trip to study in America only because the international exchange program requested a religious student to be part of the Moscow group.
Thus, Ivan arrives at Stephen Academy in Vermont with several other students and their two chaperones, Olga Dubrovna and Yuri Fedorchuk. He makes friends with an American girl named Courtney Campbell and even gets to go to an American church service. However, he learns that one of his fellow-students, Georgei Koragin, wishes to defect to America and asks Ivan’s help. If it is known that Ivan assists him, he and his whole family could be severely punished. Ivan wants to go back to Russia to be with his family, so what will he do? Will he tell the chaperones about Georgei, or will he aid the boy at the risk of his own life? And who else might want to defect? I first heard about the “Ivan” Classic Historical Fiction series in 2007 from Timberdoodle, a homeschool resource supplier. The first five in the set are Ivan and the Moscow Circus, Ivan and the Daring Escape, Ivan and the Informer, Ivan and the Hidden Bible, and Ivan and the Secret in the Suitcase, with Ivan and the American Journey as the sixth and final one. Therefore, when I saw it at a used curriculum sale, I picked it up immediately.
The books are designed to give children a glimpse of what it means to be a believer under terrifying conditions of secrecy, fear of discovery, and interrogations, and of the injustice in a communist/atheist society that is part of everyday living in such places. Russia may be very different since the fall of the U. S. S. R., but there are still communist nations on earth, and communist oppression, regardless of the country or generation, remains the same. A couple of religious items with which some people may disagree are that an organ is played in the church service and the preacher is called a pastor. However, Ivan and the American Journey is generally wholesome and filled with adventure, intrigue, and courage. Although it is set in a different culture and historical period, Ivan faces the same struggles which all godly children face. Does he want to please God more than man? Does he believe that God can keep him safe? I would highly recommend the books to kids who enjoy action-packed stories.