Words on Fire

Words on Fire

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen transports readers to a corner of history with this inspiring story of a girl who discovers the strength of her people united in resisting oppression.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 hav...

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Title:Words on Fire
Author:Jennifer A. Nielsen
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Words on Fire Reviews

  • R.F. Gammon

    I wasn't expecting to like this book so much, man, but it was absolute perfection.

    CHARACTERS:

    >Audra, our protagonist, is a quiet but feisty girl. She's also absolutely precious, has real goals and dreams, and is just amazing in general. She does magic tricks, makes smoke bombs, dresses up as a corpse, finds the most out-of-the-box solution to every problem, and is basically one of Nielsen's protagonists for the real world. I loved her.

    >Lukas, the other main character, is a sas

    I wasn't expecting to like this book so much, man, but it was absolute perfection.

    CHARACTERS:

    >Audra, our protagonist, is a quiet but feisty girl. She's also absolutely precious, has real goals and dreams, and is just amazing in general. She does magic tricks, makes smoke bombs, dresses up as a corpse, finds the most out-of-the-box solution to every problem, and is basically one of Nielsen's protagonists for the real world. I loved her.

    >Lukas, the other main character, is a sassy little thief who's brilliant for being so young and is utterly adorable. I shipped him and Audra way too hard and I loved him. And the plot twist about his life...oh my word. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

    >I wished Ben could've been in more scenes because he was amazing, but I loved him, too.

    >Audra's parents! Were! So! Tragic! And! Precious!

    >Rosakov ended up being such a complex figure, which I wasn't expecting at all and which I loved. So wonderful.

    >Basically, Nielsen is the queen of characters. *smirks*

    >The setting, too, was fantastic. I had never heard of the Lithuanian book smugglers, but this story really delved into them and their lives and it was brilliant. It's a small slice of history and not a well-known one, but so fascinating.

    >Nielsen's books are also incredibly snappy and quick-paced. She always makes the story just long enough to fit itself--it doesn't drag, it doesn't feel rushed. It's perfect.

    >Also, that ending though.

    Overall? LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVED this story. I absolutely recommend it. 5 stars!!!!

  • Dan Curnutt

    This young adult novel is a great lesson in the struggle that many nations/people have faced in our world. Lithuania in a time of turmoil under the occupation of Russia is a place that it is not safe to speak, read or write in Lithuanian. The Russians are doing their best to eradicate a people’s culture and history. They goal to assimilate the Lithuanians into Russian life and turn them into Russians.

    Why is one country always so brutal as to think that other countries ought to follow

    This young adult novel is a great lesson in the struggle that many nations/people have faced in our world. Lithuania in a time of turmoil under the occupation of Russia is a place that it is not safe to speak, read or write in Lithuanian. The Russians are doing their best to eradicate a people’s culture and history. They goal to assimilate the Lithuanians into Russian life and turn them into Russians.

    Why is one country always so brutal as to think that other countries ought to follow their culture, customs, traditions and language? The oppression is heavy and the Lithuanian people are paying a terrible price that will take decades to overcome.

    Our story is about two teenagers (alright barely teenagers, 13 years of age) who become book smugglers to bring the banned books of Lithuania to the people. They become criminals to strive to keep alive heritage and culture. They go against everything Russian. And, they will pay a heavy price.

    Audra watches as her parents are arrested, her home is burned and her life is turned upside down. But instead of giving in she becomes a book smuggler and strives to rescue her parents and her country from the occupying Cossack army. Will she succeed? Will she discover her own heritage? Will she find her parents?

    All these questions will be answered in a novel that brings to light the struggle of a people and their desire to just live their lives in freedom in their own culture.

    Enjoy!

  • Heidi

    Jennifer Nielsen's historical fiction rocks. I've thoroughly enjoyed her first two and was eager to read this one. It was even better than I hoped. I'd never heard of book smugglers such as are described in this book, but it makes for a compelling background for this story of Lithuanian resistance. Not only is this a powerful story of courage and friendship, but it's a incredible ode to the importance of books and reading and knowledge. Audra knows her parents are up to something, but until they

    Jennifer Nielsen's historical fiction rocks. I've thoroughly enjoyed her first two and was eager to read this one. It was even better than I hoped. I'd never heard of book smugglers such as are described in this book, but it makes for a compelling background for this story of Lithuanian resistance. Not only is this a powerful story of courage and friendship, but it's a incredible ode to the importance of books and reading and knowledge. Audra knows her parents are up to something, but until they are arrested by the Russian invaders she doesn't know what. After being forced to flee, Audra meets up with some of her parents co-book smugglers and must choose whether to participate or not. She wants desperately to rescue her parents, but at what cost?

    As with all her books, Nielsen knows how to tell a story that is hard to put down. Audra is a sympathetic character who struggles with powerful emotions: fear, anger, guilt, and loyalty all exist in her heart. As she gets more involved in the book smuggling movement she must make difficult decisions and use every magic trick her father taught her to save herself and her friends and the books. With some interesting twists revealed at the end that change everything, Audra and her friends must decide just what they are willing to sacrifice in the name of saving Lithuanian culture.

    Nielsen has written another compelling, well-told, historical tale full of powerful themes, I highly recommend it. This is the kind of historical fiction that young readers are bound to enjoy.

  • Macey

    Absolutely loved it! I did NOT see that ending coming. Can't wait to own.

  • Bouch The Bookworm

    This is the book I expected The Book Thief to be and while it is written for a younger audience, I don't think that should stop you picking it up. Nothing should ever stop you from picking up a book, that is the whole point.

    Long before Germanic Occupation, Lithuania was a country beseiged by upsurpers attempting to eradicate them as a people and as a nation. And how do you remove a people from history? Take away their books. Because books not only have the power to transform and crea

    This is the book I expected The Book Thief to be and while it is written for a younger audience, I don't think that should stop you picking it up. Nothing should ever stop you from picking up a book, that is the whole point.

    Long before Germanic Occupation, Lithuania was a country beseiged by upsurpers attempting to eradicate them as a people and as a nation. And how do you remove a people from history? Take away their books. Because books not only have the power to transform and create but they hold the immortality of a story, they bring forth the past in to well beyond the present and they have the magic of bringing us together and uniting us in hope and imagination.

    This is a fictional story of a young girl, Audra, who becomes a book smuggler for her people in order to preserve their heritage, their culture and their identity against the onslaught of Kossack reign. It's a tear jerker but as mentioned before it's aimed at young readers so there is no brutality, swearing or sexual content.

    We take for granted not only our ability to read freely but even the luxury of walking into a store where books can be bought and sold. To learn to read is a requirement here in the western world, not a crime. This book should give you pause for the hard won freedoms we now take for granted. It was a breathtaking look at how empowering our humble book can be. Highly reccomend.

  • Lesley

    “How do you destroy a people? You take away their culture. And how is that done? You must take their language, their history, their very identity. How would you do that?”

    I pressed my lips together, then looked up at her. “You ban their books.” (78)

    Jennifer Nielsen’s newest novel takes place during the Russian occupation of Lithuania (1795-1918), specifically the time period between June and November 1893. After the January Uprising of 1863-1864, there was a forty-year ban on th

    “How do you destroy a people? You take away their culture. And how is that done? You must take their language, their history, their very identity. How would you do that?”

    I pressed my lips together, then looked up at her. “You ban their books.” (78)

    Jennifer Nielsen’s newest novel takes place during the Russian occupation of Lithuania (1795-1918), specifically the time period between June and November 1893. After the January Uprising of 1863-1864, there was a forty-year ban on the Lithuanian language, press, and books. Young adolescent Audra lives on a farm with her parents and is illiterate—by choice. She chooses not to go to school or learn to read or write. When her parents are arrested and their house burned, Audra, who describes herself as “the girl who watched life from afar but rarely participated” (2) escapes, having been entrusted by her parents with a package to deliver. When she finds out that they risked their lives to deliver merely a book, she is dismayed.

    Through her new friends—Lukas, Ben, and Milda, who are book smugglers like her parents—Audra learns to read, to write, and the importance of books to her people and to preserve her culture, and she willingly becomes a book smuggler, even again the wishes of these new friends who fear for her safety. “I’d seen a glimpse of myself as I wished to be, a reflection of who I might become if I allowed courage to enter my heart, or ideas to enter my head…. When I imagined the girl I wanted to be, it was the girl who smuggled books.” (111-112)

    Constantly in danger, Audra becomes inventive, using her father’s magic and her awakening sense of story to evade and escape the Cossacks. She has complicated decisions to make as she tries to save both her parents from prison in Siberia, but at the same time, her new friends and herself. And the books.

    A novel of adventure, danger, courage, secrets, ideas and ideals, and strong adolescent characters “honoring the knygnesiai—the book carriers, who are among the true heroes of Lithuanian history” (Author Acknowledgments). Words on Fire is another story that teaches a part of history we seldom study.

  • Donna Merritt

    I received an ARC of this book, due out October 2019.

    Important historical (and current) topic about cultural identity tied to books and the power of the written word, set in the late 1800s when Russia banned Lithuanian books. When her parents are arrested and her home torched, Audra discovers that her parents were book smugglers, getting books into as many Lithuanian hands as possible in order to stand against the Cossacks. And yet, her parents, despite their mission, have never taug

    I received an ARC of this book, due out October 2019.

    Important historical (and current) topic about cultural identity tied to books and the power of the written word, set in the late 1800s when Russia banned Lithuanian books. When her parents are arrested and her home torched, Audra discovers that her parents were book smugglers, getting books into as many Lithuanian hands as possible in order to stand against the Cossacks. And yet, her parents, despite their mission, have never taught Audra to read, most likely trying to protect her.

    I am, of course, adding this to my 4th/5th grade school library, but I didn't find this read as satisfying as I would have liked. There were too many times I simply could not "suspend disbelief" over how often the main characters were able to escape the Cossacks and survived harrowing conditions. Details were missing. Inconsistencies. Even the cover, while a general representation of the theme, does not depict any singular event in the book (no fault of the author there). And Audra teaches herself to read rather too quickly, begins writing stories, and has the same revelation about books repeatedly.

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

    Audra lives with her mother and father in a small Lithuanian village in 1893. Her father is a magician and travels a great deal in order to entertain. She would like to go with him, but her mother claims it is too dangerous, making her wonder what else her father is doing. She finds out that both parents are book smugglers, but too late... the Cossacks attack, arrest her parents, and burn down the home. Audra escapes with her father's knapsack and

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

    Audra lives with her mother and father in a small Lithuanian village in 1893. Her father is a magician and travels a great deal in order to entertain. She would like to go with him, but her mother claims it is too dangerous, making her wonder what else her father is doing. She finds out that both parents are book smugglers, but too late... the Cossacks attack, arrest her parents, and burn down the home. Audra escapes with her father's knapsack and instructions to deliver a package to Milda in another town. With the help of Lukas, a boy she meets, she manages to evade the Cossacks and get to Milda. She stays for a while, and learns how important books written in Lithuanian are to her people, and why the Russians have banned them. Officer Rusakov is bound and determined to find Audra wherever she tries to go. She eventually is sent over the border to Prussia by Ben, who has been smuggling books for many years. She is supposed to stay, but she finds out from Lukas that Lithuanian books are being printed there and he needs help getting them back into Lithuania. There are many harrowing experiences involved in smuggling the books, but Audra realized how important the books are after she learns to read. There are some secrets about both her family and Lukas' revealed that make her situation more interesting... and dangerous.

    Strengths: There are enough books about WWII; let's have more about the troubles in the Baltic region! Nielsen writes a solid historical novel and has clearly done her research, and the focus on books and their importance is definitely a different story than is usually told. Audra's reactions to her plight are all reasonable, and it's interesting to watch her views change. Lukas' past is riveting, and Ben and Milda's commitment to the cause admirable. Even Officer Rusakov has some moments of growth.

    Weaknesses: I love most of Nielsen's work (Resistance was awesome and very popular in my library), but I couldn't quite get into this one, which is odd. I have been looking for more books on the Baltic states, and this involves saving books, but like A Night Divided, this just didn't pull me in.

    What I really think: I will probably purchase, but it will circulate about as much as Preuss' Heart of a Samurai, since it is a little known period and place in the world, and I am still struggling to get students to read historical fiction.

  • Kim Friant

    3 stars—

    I really love Nielsen’s books, especially her historical fiction series. She does such a great job of telling the stories of some of the forgotten heroes of history and she does it with respect and style. Unfortunately, this is not my favorite of that series. It’s not a bad book by any means, I just had some issues with it. I felt a disconnect with Audra that I didn’t want to feel. She wasn’t as likable as Nielsen’s other characters. She strayed into that “idealist” territory, where a

    3 stars—

    I really love Nielsen’s books, especially her historical fiction series. She does such a great job of telling the stories of some of the forgotten heroes of history and she does it with respect and style. Unfortunately, this is not my favorite of that series. It’s not a bad book by any means, I just had some issues with it. I felt a disconnect with Audra that I didn’t want to feel. She wasn’t as likable as Nielsen’s other characters. She strayed into that “idealist” territory, where a lot of preaching happens but not a lot of common sense. Of course books are important and for many people in Lithuania under Russian Imperial rule, they were a lifeline to their language and culture. For some reason, it just felt shallow. In the shadow of big country with a stronger army, the resistance seemed ineffectual. There was no balance between passive and military resistance. I know that the freedoms we enjoy today, of being able to drive to just about any store and buying any book we want, made book running then look like such a small thing. And that was my own shortcoming while reading this book. I just missed the emotions and feels that I got from her other books. I would still recommend this to history teachers and teens because there are excellent lessons to be learned. I personally felt distant from the story, and that makes me sad.

  • Amy

    Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

    In

    Nielsen takes on the subject of Lithuania's history and struggle with Russian rule and the press ban, a time when all print items in Lithuania had to be in Russian. This was an attempt to stifle Lithuanian culture, language, heritage, history, and freedom. Audra, a young girl, lives with her parents. Her father, a magician, travels a great d

    Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

    In

    Nielsen takes on the subject of Lithuania's history and struggle with Russian rule and the press ban, a time when all print items in Lithuania had to be in Russian. This was an attempt to stifle Lithuanian culture, language, heritage, history, and freedom. Audra, a young girl, lives with her parents. Her father, a magician, travels a great deal for his work and she suspects that there is more to it than mere magic tricks. One night, she realizes how right she is when the Russian soldiers show up and arrest her parents. Audra manages to escape with a mysterious package and instructions to find a woman in a nearby village. Once there, she realizes her parents were book smugglers and now finds herself caught up in it as well. Audra learns to read and begins to realize the importance of books and literature.

    Overall, this was a solid, decent middle grade historical fiction. Kids who liked Nielsen's other books, especially

    and

    will most likely also enjoy this one. It was a bit slow at times, and I found myself skimming along in places. Overall, a strong second purchase for collections where historical fiction is in demand. Recommended for grades 4-7.

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