Threads: Zlata’s Ukrainian Shirt

Farrar. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374391218.
PreS-Gr 2–Maslo weaves a poignant tale that explores betrayal, survival, hope, and renewal. Zlata, based on Maslo’s grandmother, is a girl living in Ukraine with her mother and father in the early 1930s during the country’s perod of famine and genocide, known as the Holodomor. Under Soviet Communist rule, Ukrainians lost their properties and rights. On Zlata’s eighth birthday, her parents gift her a handmade shirt adorned with beautiful embroidery in black and red threads. “‘Red is for love, and black is for sadness,’ Papa said. ‘Life has good times and hard times. Even though the Communists are making life difficult, we still have each other.’” But dark times are ahead. Zlata and her best friend, Yeva, have a disagreement; one day a brigade shows up unannounced. With them is Yeva’s father who reveals the family’s belongings. The officers seize their farm animals, land, and take Zlata’s father. Yeva, whose father was also taken away by the officers after losing his job, informs Zlata that she has her embroidered shirt, one of the items they were allowed to keep as a reward for betraying Zlata’s family. Thereafter unfolds a story of survival, embroidery, and hope. With vibrant acrylic gouache illustrations, the picture book includes an author’s note, delving deeper into her family’s past, the political history, and the cultural significance of vyshyvanka and Ukrainian embroidery to provide more context for families and educators.
VERDICT This picture book reads like a memoir, historical drama, and a poignant story about friendship; for educators wishing to delve into the current conflict and its past.

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