The Winter War

by William Durbin

The Winter War between Finland and Russia began in the fall of 1939, when Russian... read more

The Winter War between Finland and Russia began in the fall of 1939, when Russian troops invaded Finland with an eye toward claiming land in the southeast for “security reasons.” It lasted for 105 days. Citizens became soldiers, and although hugely outnumbered, they were largely successful in defending their soil. It was in the negotiations to bring peace that Finland lost, ceding 35,000 square kilometers of land it has never recovered. William Durbin’s novel is set during the three-and-a-half months of fighting through the winter of 1939–1940. When teenage Marko’s village is shelled, his best friend is killed. His father is already somewhere on the front, and Marko is now more determined then ever to fight, despite his polio-weakened leg. His chance comes when one of his teachers, now a unit commander, asks him to be a message runner behind the front lines. Marko is soon paired with taciturn Karl, a refugee from a region already overrun by Russian troops, and the two young soldiers are witness to the anything-but-glory side of war, as well as part of the comraderie that gets them through the most difficult times. An author’s note provides additional information on the Winter War that forms the backdrop for this compelling, and thoroughly researched, story. (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

show less