Words on Fire – The Impossible Choices of War

Words on Fire

By Jennifer A Nielsen

Spoiler Alert!




Danger is never far from Audra’s family farm in Lithuania. She always avoids the occupying Russian Cossack soldiers, who insist that everyone must become Russian — they have banned Lithuanian books, religion, culture, and even the language. But Audra knows her parents are involved in something secret and perilous.

When Cossacks arrive abruptly at their door, Audra’s parents insist that she flee, taking with her an important package and instructions for where to deliver it. But escape means abandoning her parents to a terrible fate.

As Audra embarks on a journey to deliver the mysterious package, she faces unimaginable risks, and soon she becomes caught up in a growing resistance movement. Can joining the underground network of book smugglers give Audra a chance to rescue her parents? (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Nielsen has done it again. She draws the most stunning characters with strength and vulnerability. Audra joins the ranks of loved protagonists.

I had to read this book because it’s about saving books! Have you considered how to destroy a people? Taking their culture and heritage was the Cossack’s answer. What would my life be like, and the life of my children, if I no longer had my favorite books to savor and share? Recently, I heard an African American speak at an illustration conference, and she said she’d wondered if she was invisible as a child or if she even existed. Her life as a young child convinced her something was missing.

In Words on Fire, Audra has this same experience. If her language is illegal and forgotten, does she even exist? Her name cannot be spoken as though she is no longer there. Does that mean she can do anything she wants? She presses forward even when she doesn’t feel brave as a way to honor her parents and all the other people who depend on her.

Audra’s parents felt so strongly about saving their heritage found in books, that they sent their daughter away when they would die, so she could have a chance to live as well as their precious book. What a daunting thing for Audra to live with. She has never seen or heard of anyone coming back from Siberia. What a terrible choice to make.

In one scene, Lukas gives us a great insight into why these people smuggled books. “I know what you’ve always said, what you really believe. That books themselves are freedom. Freedom to think, to believe, to dream.” p. 109

This is a telling moment for Audra. What will she choose? Will she become a book carrier like her father or turn Lukas in to the Russians?

It’s good to read a variety of books. This is the kind of book we need to read to understand our fortune in having freedom.

I definitely recommend this book! It’s on my list of favorites.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

If you loved Words on Fire, try Nielsen’s book Resistance, and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
This entry was posted in All Time Favorites, middle-grade books, young adult book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s