New Book Spotlight: The Blackbird Girls

The New Book Spotlight highlights new-to-us titles in the the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) Library.

The Blackbird Girls / by Anne Blankman / 2020

Content Advisory/Trigger Warning: physical and mental abuse, anti-Semitism

Anne Blankman’s The Blackbird Girls is a historical fiction that jumps between Oksana and Valentina in the aftermath of the Chernobyl power plant explosion in 1986, and Rifka who is on the run from the Nazis in 1941.

Rifka grew up practicing Judaism while Valentina identifies only ethnically with Judism. Separated by over forty years, the two girls experienced anti-Semitism in ways that were similar yet so different. Oksana was the perfect Ukrainian, and all her life she was told to hate Valentina and people “of her kind”.

When the Chernobyl power plant exploded, Valentina and Oksana’s lives were forced together much to their dismay. But when they have to live together in Leningrad with Valentina’s grandmother, they learn how similar they are and how important they are to each other.

Blankman explores the impact World War II and the Holocaust had on Jewish people while showing personal growth in a prejudice time in world history. Blankman has created a story full of hope and resilience in a time of fear and uncertainty.

The Blackbird Girls is available from CECH Library, as well as the OhioLINK and Search Ohio lending networks. It also won the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for Middle Grades Literature.

Review by Alice Somers (she/her), CECH Library Student Assistant | Secondary English Education, CECH 2025