Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Autocratic Ruler

ReferencePoint. Nov. 2022. 64p. $32.95. ISBN 9781678204884.
Gr 6 Up–Current, clear, and uncluttered, this trio on the war in the Ukraine [see also The Unprovoked War: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy: Ukrainian President and Unlikely Hero] provides young readers with the background knowledge they need to understand one of the most pressing current events in global politics. The Unprovoked War presents clear background on how the Ukraine and Russia have been historically entwined, before delving into the contemporary Ukrainian political landscape. This context effectively articulates why the war happened then investigates the conflict itself. Next, the paired biographies of Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy highlight radically different approaches toward leadership and governance. While young people might know Putin as a vaguely terrifying despot, Allen’s biography of the man provides the grisly details of Putin’s rise for power and relentless authoritarian methods of controlling the Russian population. If Putin is a solid villain, then Nardo’s take on Zelenskyy centers his humanity and shows his growth from an enterprising law student turned comedian into a savvy, stalwart leader. His quick wit is consistently inspiring. Sidebars highlight primary source quotations and influential articles; while the photographs are relatively few, some do show the brutal aftermath of war. A useful list of organizations and websites and a solid index succeeds the main text.
VERDICT Accessible, detailed, alternately terrifying and inspiring, these reference books on the war in Ukraine are a welcome alternative for students seeking something beyond Wikipedia.

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