HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Night of the Cossack
Author: Tom Blubaugh
Publisher: by Bound by Faith Publishers, republished 2018
Related website(s): http://tomblubaugh.net (author)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Blubaugh, Tom. Night of the Cossack (Published originally in 2011 by Bound by Faith Publishers; republished in 2018). It is around 1908, and Nathan Hertzfield, a sixteen year old Jewish boy, lives with his widowed mother and younger brother Israel in the village of Gagra at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains on the eastern shore of the Black Sea in northern Georgia. His father had died in an accident a year before. One night a Cossack army raids their village, and Nathan is kidnapped by a Cossack named Nikolai who changes his name to Stepan Ivanov and makes him a Cossack soldier. Another boy from the village, a slightly older boyhood friend of Nathan’s named Vasile, is also taken. Nikolai treats Nathan well, but the young man faces many life or death situations during his saga in the Russian army.
A couple of years later, after Nikolai is killed during a riot, Stepan is promoted to work in the pharmacy with Vasile, but his one-time friend sets him up to take the blame for his own misdeeds, so Stepan decides that he must flee for his life. Is he able to escape? If so, where will he go? And whom can he trust? Based loosely on the possible story of author Tom Blubaugh ‘s own grandfather, it is a tale of what might have happened, but Blubaugh does a fine job of weaving history and fiction into a gripping story, and the reader is exposed to a lot of history and geography as Nathan makes his way on his suspenseful coming of age journey through parts of Russia and Europe during the early 1900’s. The homeschool version also has a 10-day lesson plan included, like a unit study, with exercises in language arts, math, science, and social studies, as well as moral dilemma questions for each day.
There are references to drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, but they are not emphasized. One reviewer mentioned “some elements that might concern cautious parents (discussion of women being kidnapped to become wives and veiled reference to rape and a character who preaches Christianity telling Nathan to not wait up, with a wink, as he goes to visit his girlfriend).” However, nothing struck me as inappropriate. There is a hint at romance but no torrid love scenes, and I agree with another reviewer who said, “This is a good, clean story and suitable for any teenager (or oldster).” Night of the Cossacks is a tale of loss and perseverance. In spite of his problems, Nathan doesn’t give up hope or become bitter and resentful toward God but exhibits character, ethics, and principles that are guided by his early childhood training based on Biblical principles. Reportedly a sequel is in the works.