Four Steps to Death
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (July 2010)|
|Four Steps to Death|
The cover of Four Steps to Death
|Subject||The Battle of Stalingrad|
|Publisher||Kids Can Press|
|ISBN||1-55337-704-4 (bound); 1-55337-705-2 (pbk.)|
Four Steps to Death is a historical novel by John Wilson, first published in 2005. It is about the horrors and tragedies of the Battle of Stalingrad. The plot revolves around the lives of various characters involved in the battle on both sides of the conflict and shows how horrible war can be.
Four Steps to Death is told mainly through Sergei Ilyich Andropov, a seventy-year-old police officer who has been called to investigate the case of two mysterious bodies found in the cellar of a building that is being excavated in the present-day Russian city of Volgograd. This discovery brings about a series of flashbacks to when Sergei was a child in Stalingrad, as Volgograd was then known. Four Steps to Death is the story of three individuals during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.
Vasily is a 17-year-old patriotic machine gunner whose biggest dream is to become a hero of the Soviet Union by casting away the large Nazi army that has advanced all the way to his homeland. Vasily quickly becomes attached to a famous Russian sniper, a woman named Yelena Pavlova. Although he and his fellow comrades have pledged allegiance to their homeland, Vasily is soon confused at the lack of patriotism expressed by Yelena and many of the other troops. This makes Vasily think of home. At first he feels guilty about defying his government but good and evil become entangled and soon, Vasily cannot tell why they are at war in the first place.
Conrad is an 18-year-old patriotic German tank leader commanding his Panzer division through the Russian steppe and into Stalingrad (which he believes will end the war). With the "Ivans" (Russians) defeated, Conrad believes that he and his older brother, Josef, will be able to come back home to Germany as war heroes and be able to celebrate Christmas with the mother. Their father was a WWI veteran and an Iron Cross recipient for bravery in the Battle of Verdun who recently died from his wounds. Although Conrad is proud of his father, he sometimes wishes that his father was still alive. As the story progresses, his dream of spending Christmas with his family in Germany slips further and further away.
In the middle of the conflict is eight-year-old Sergei. He lives in Stalingrad in the cellar of his former apartment, scavenging among the ruins of his hometown while the Germans and Russians wage war on one another. Thousands of bodies litter the streets, and yet, Sergei is not bothered by any of this, being hardened by the horrors that he faces every day. He dreams of being a famous sniper one day and ridding his homeland of the "Fascists".
Nominations and reception
Four Steps to Death was nominated for the 2006 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize, the 2006 Geoffrey Bilson Award, the 2007 White Pine Award. The novel was recognized as a Society of School Librarians International Honor Book (2006), and as a Manitoba Reader's Young Choice Award Honour Book. It was shortlisted for the Stellar Award, the Isinglass Award (2008), and was starred in the CCBC Our Choice 2006
- Rebizant, Rita. "Four Steps to Death." Manitoba Library Association. Manitoba Library Association 19 March 2009. See 'Four Steps to Death' at umanitoba.ca