Between Shades of Gray

 

1941 – Fifteen-year-old Lina Vilkas is arrested by the Soviet secret police and deported to Siberia with her mother and younger brother. Lina fights for her life, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by burying her complete story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Lina’s writings and drawings chronicle her fight for survival, her difficulty accepting help from a Soviet guard she’s supposed to hate, and her struggle to retain faith in mankind amidst the terror.

 

New York Times Bestseller
International Bestseller
Carnegie Medal Finalist

Educational Resources

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Praise for Between Shades of Gray

Publisher’s Weekly

“A harrowing page-turner.”

The Washington Post

“Her prose is restrained and powerful, as unadorned as the landscape in which her characters struggle to survive… Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.”

The New York Times Book Review

“A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch.”

Los Angeles Times

“An eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Ms. Sepetys’s prose is wonderfully uncluttered and sometimes beautiful…a superb though grueling novel.”

Associated Press

“An engrossing and poignant story of the fortitude of the human spirit in a dark time in Lithuanian history.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Brave Lina is a heroine young and old readers can believe in.”

NPR

“Please read this small window into a tragedy.”

An International Bestseller

Explore Covers From Around the World

Did you know Between Shades of Gray has been published in over fifty countries and thirty-seven languages?
Explore some of the international editions.

Author Video

Discussion Resources

An Educator’s Guide to Ruta Sepetys

Connecting History to Ourselves Through Young Adult Literature

The activities in this guide align with Common Core State Standards and fit into the curriculum for grades 7-10.

An Educator’s Guide to Between Shades of Gray

Lesson Plans for Educators

In this guide, you will find ties to the curriculum for English and Language Arts concentrations as well as History and Social Sciences. All of the activities, assignments, writing prompts, and discussion questions align with Common Core State Standards for grades 7-10. The guide can be used as a comprehensive tool to teach the book within the context of an English and/or History class for a unit that lasts for 2-3 weeks time, depending on the depth and breadth of each class discussion. Alternatively, the activities can be used independently as enrichment activities. We hope you’ll enjoy the guide and use it in your classroom for years to come.

Between Shades of Gray Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide for Book Clubs

The Between Shades Of Gray discussion guide has been correlated to Common Core Standards for grades 7-10.

Entre Tonos de Gris Guia de Lectura

Spanish Educational Guide

Created by Maeva, the Spanish publisher for Between Shades of Gray, in this guide you will find ties to the curriculum for Language Arts concentrations as well as History and Social Sciences. The guide can be used as a comprehensive tool to teach the book within the context of a Language and/or History class for a unit that lasts for 2-3 weeks time, depending on the depth and breadth of each class discussion. Alternatively, the activities can be used independently as enrichment activities.

The Other Dream Team

Documentary film directed by Sundance winner, Marius Markevicius about the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team who emerged as symbols of democracy. Forced to play for the Soviet team during previous Olympics, in 1992 Lithuania traveled to the summer games in Barcelona carrying their own flag for the first time in over 50 years. The Lithuanian basketball team made it to the final medal round and the world watched as they had to compete against their former oppressors, Russia.

Shadows on the Tundra

by Dalia Grinkevičiutė

In 1941, fourteen-year-old Dalia Grinkeviciute was arrested and deported to the Altai region of Siberia. In 1942 she was exiled to the Laptev Sea. Desperate to preserve the story and history of those exiled, Dalia journaled and drew pictures of her experience on small pieces of paper. Fearful they might be discovered by the KGB, Dalia buried her memoirs of deportation in a glass jar in her garden. The memoirs were thought to be lost, but in 1991, the jar was discovered and unearthed. This book, published by Peirene Press, is an English translation of Grinkeviciute’s original memoirs that provided the general framework for Between Shades of Gray.

The Singing Revolution

Documentary film about a tiny nation’s struggle for independence, illuminating how the Estonians kept their identity alive under the Iron Curtain – through singing.

Children of Siberia: Memoirs of Lithuanian Exiles

An excellent primary source. The personal accounts of sixteen individuals who were deported to Siberia as children under Stalin’s regime. Originally published in 2011, the book has now been translated into English.

Lithuanians In the Arctic

An excellent primary source and inspiration for the novel, Between Shades of Gray. The book combines the memoirs and sketches from three survivors who were deported to the island of Trofimovsk in the Arctic.

Hope and Spirit

An excellent primary source website that contains actual letters from exiles in Siberia translated into English. The curator of the original Hope and Spirit museum exhibit in Chicago, Dr. Plioplys, discovered letters from Ruta Sepetys’ relatives in Siberia and reunited Sepetys with her own history. See “Letters From Siberia” on the site.

Hill of Crosses

A study model for peace. The Hill of Crosses is a sacred site that symbolizes the peaceful endurance of Lithuania. During their fifty years of Soviet occupation, Lithuanians placed a cross on the hill at Siauliai representing their belief in freedom and the power of the human spirit. The Soviets bulldozed the Hill of Crosses, but each time the crosses reappeared. Today there are over 100,000 crosses on the hill.

The Baltic Way

A study model for independence. In 1989 two million people joined hands across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia in a human chain for freedom and used silence, not violence, to demonstrate their independence.

The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia

by Esther Hautzig

Originally published in 1968, this wonderful autobiography for young adults tells the story of Esther Rudomin, a ten-year-old from a prominent Jewish family deported from Vilna, Poland to Siberia by the Soviets.

Leave Your Tears In Moscow

by Barbara Armonas

Originally published in 1961, this non-fiction book by Barbara Armonas describes her deportation and subsequent twenty year battle with the Soviet GULAG system, all while trying to protect her young son.

We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

by Ellen Cassedy

The tragedy of the Lithuanian Holocaust is another little-known story and must be studied to understand the full context of Lithuania’s history.

Author Ellen Cassedy has spent the last decade exploring Lithuania’s encounter with its Jewish heritage, including the Holocaust. She is a frequent speaker about the Holocaust, Lithuania, and Jewish culture. Her book, We Are Here, is the winner of numerous awards.