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Night of the Cossack – Historical Fiction Book with Study Guide

The Night of the Cossack – Homeschool Edition with Study Guide – by Tom Blubaugh

The Night of the Cossack by Tom Blubaugh is a captivating historical fiction set in Russia during the early 1900s, a dangerous time and place if you happened to be a Jew.

The author’s maternal grandfather, Nathan Hertzfield, happened to be just that.

Kids Historical Fiction Homeschool Book with Guide

A captivating narrative that completely sweeps the reader to another time and place, the story begins one night in sixteen-year-old Nathan’s home village of Gagra, where he lives with his widowed mother and younger brother, Israel. During a raid by the Cossacks, a Russian military group dedicated to protecting Russia from the Turks, Nathan finds himself captured by a man named Nikolai and forced into life as a Cossack, leaving behind his home, family, and his identity as Jews are not welcome in the Russian ranks.

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Under the instruction of Nikolai, Nathan learns what it really means for him to be a Cossack and, more importantly, a man. He works hard, learns much, and gains respect from his fellows.

Despite his efforts, a friendship ultimately grows between Nathan and Nikolai, the former finally settling down to his Cossack life as time passes.

Short years later, just as Nathan finally starts relaxing in his new home with Nikolai, trouble starts in Odessa, a Russian city, and the Cossacks, under order of the tsar, are deployed as soldiers in the Russian army–on a mission that is likely to include killing Jews.

Teen Russian Historical Fiction Homeschool Book Review

Nathan, through the help of Nikolai and his childhood friend, Vasile, who is also in the army, manages to stay out of the main conflict and instead finds himself working in the pharmacy, where his life takes a drastic turn.

Falsely accused of a crime, Nathan must now flee the Russian army, riding for weeks across a snowy wilderness in his search for safety, and facing the hardest choices of his life as he is ruthlessly pursued across Europe by the Russian Okhrana.

And the action only picks up from here in Blubaugh’s fast-paced narrative. This is certainly a book to keep readers of all ages actively interested with its three-dimensional characters, vivid settings, and riveting plot. The experience becomes as heart-wrenching as it is intriguing as Nathan seems to never find rest or refuge, always saying goodbye to what he has known and loved.

Historical Fiction Book with Study Guide - Russia in the 1900'sEnjoyable in most any context, The Night of the Cossack is also ideal for use in homeschool with Blubaugh both being historically accurate with his portrayal of life in that time period and his skillful weaving moral and life lessons into the fabric of Nathan’s journey. The book deals well with problems faced by adults in a way that is appealing and understandable to a child while never coming across as preachy, even lightly exploring subjects such as religion and Christianity.

Includes a 10-day lesson plan that helps students discover history, weather, math, and science during the early 1900s, as well as moral dilemma questions for each day.

Read this review from The Old Schoolhouse which covers the lesson plans in-depth. 

As for Nathan, his compelling story does not end where the book does, leaving us to ponder what may have happened next while still being satisfied as readers. Does he ever find a place to call home? A real refuge? Does he ever find freedom?

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