Shelly Sanders delivers an exciting plot, an ambitious historical context, and engaging, complex characters. Manitoba Library Association
“Adeptly conveys the history, from Mikhail Rybachenko’s real name to the bitter bigotry and bloodbath…Critical for its underexplored subject.” Kirkus Reviews
“Rachel’s Secret effectively uses the historical record to create a compelling image of this troubled period, making meaningful points about the role of hatred and hope in society–and how young people can break free from the shackles of tradition.” iTunes, Book of the Week, May 7-14
Basing the story on historical record, Sanders weaves a tale of catastrophe stemming from unbridled hatred, spreading of untruths, and lack of commitment to public safety on the part of officials. And while Rachel does act courageously and courtroom justice is meted out, virulent anti-Semitism still rules the day. In an artful way throughout this absorbing, chilling tale, characters wonder what can stop the tragedy of hatred from overcoming community, a question that will prompt readers to wonder the same.
Booklist (Starred Review)
The quotes from newspaper accounts in 1903 Russia are chilling in their lack of journalistic responsibility for publishing the truth. The weaving of the personal with the historic is skillful and thought-provoking. This one is a must for a library serving youth. Hopefully, more books will follow from this author.
Rachel’s Secret would be an excellent addition to a middle school or junior high school study of racism. And although good storytelling is its most important feature, it is also a textbook example of the eight stages of genocide. For example, Sanders integrates the headlines from the newspapers of the day to illustrate the cunning effect of propaganda on people unwilling to ask more questions. Sanders should be commended for her ability to provide the shocking facts of this story while keeping her young adult audience in mind.
Manitoba Library Association
The well-written story gives readers a good portrayal of what life was like for Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Rachel is a strong heroine with a loving family. She has growing feelings for Sergei, who is an example of a good Christian at this terrible time. The author’s vividly-drawn characters bring the historical period to life while personalizing the story.
Andrea Davidson, The Temple-Tifereth Israel, Beachwood, OH
The final chapter in Rachel's epic journey from Russia to America.
It is 1904, and Rachel and her family are leaving Russia to escape the continuing riots against Jews.
Rachel, a Jew, and Sergei, a Christian, find their worlds torn apart by violence in pre-Revolutionary Russia.