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Rachel's Secret

The Rachel Trilogy

by: Shelly Sanders

Rachel and Sergei find their worlds torn apart by violence in pre-revolutionary Russia...

Rachel is a Jew living in Kishinev, Russia. At fourteen, Rachel knows that she wants more from life than the traditional role of wife and mother. She has dreams of being a writer. But everything is put on hold when a young Christian man is murdered and Rachel is forced to keep the murderer’s identity a secret. Tensions mount as the distrust of the Jews is fueled by prejudice and rumour.

While Rachel keeps the truth to herself, she watches as lies and anti-Jewish propaganda leap off the pages of the local newspaper, inciting many to riot against the Jews. Violence breaks out on Easter Sunday, 1903, and when it finally ends, Rachel finds that the person she loves most is dead and that her home has been destroyed. As she struggles to survive the aftermath of the riots – or pogroms – support comes from someone totally unexpected, when a young Christian named Sergei turns against his father, a police officer complicit in the riots, to help Rachel.

With everything against them, the two young people find comfort in the bond that is growing between them, one of the few signs of goodness and hope in a time of chaos and violence.

Book One in The Rachel Trilogy

Teacher's Guide for download on our Resources page - Common Core and NCTE/IRA Standards-Based

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  • Named a "Notable Book" by the 2013 Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor Book Award

  • Rachel's Secret was included in the Canadian Children's Book Centre's "Best Books for Kids and Teens", 2012 Fall edition.


  • "An excellent discussion starter for exploring the history of anti-Semitism, Rachel’s Secret is recommended for readers ages 10 and up and will appeal to fans of similar novels such as Puppet by Eva Wiseman and The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf." - Jewish Book World, Spring 2013

  • "The well-written story gives readers a good portrayal of what life was like for Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia. … The author’s vividly-drawn characters bring the historical period to life while personalizing the story. The reader is kept in suspense about what Rachel will do with her terrible secret. … (It) can spark an excellent discussion about how prejudice happens and how it can be used to distort true facts." - AJL Reviews, Association of Jewish Libraries, October 15, 2012

  •  "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." - CM Magazine, March 9, 2012

  • "Author Shelly Sanders shrewdly uses the character to give young readers someone to identify with while reading about horrifying events, an approach that renders the information much more accessible." - Quill & Quire, April 1, 2012

  • "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...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, April 15, 2012


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