#1205 – The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer



The Story That Cannot Be Told
Written by J. Kasper Kramer
Jacket Illustrated by Isabella Mazzanti
Antheneum Books for Young Readers  10/8/2019
376 Pages   Ages 8—12



Genre:  Middle Grade Book, Fiction
Themes:  Revolutions, Codes, Family


Once upon a time, something happened . . .

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace, back when families had enough food and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was names for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you into trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. Even in a remote mountain village, there are stories to collect. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life. (from book jacket)

Opening Lines

Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.

Why I like this book

The Story That Cannot Be Told centers around Ileana, a twelve-year-old Romanian girl living during the brutal regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in the 1980s. The Communist leader, once an “everyday man,” lets power change him. He becomes greedy, brash, and paranoid. His secret police, the Securitate, use everyday people as spies (saying no to this was not life-affirming). Most intellectuals are gone: scientists, engineers, professors, and writers (especially writers). Ileana’s uncle publishes poetry against the regime . . . then disappears.

Like her uncle, Ileana is a writer. She collects stories, often changing them to suit her present mood. Most are of no concern to the government, but a couple of stories could get the family kidnapped, tortured, or killed. Ileana’s father becomes fearful for his daughter’s safety, destroys the Great Tome—Ileana’s life work, as she calls it—and sends her to her grandparent’s village high in the mountains. Ileana has never met them, nor they her. Life sets a slower pace, but soon Ileana is thriving in the village . . . until the Securitate arrive.

Developed from folklores, memories, research, and even fairy tales, The Story That  Cannot Be Told is a smoothly pieced together story, part fiction – part fact, that readers will enjoy. (Read the author’s note as to how this was accomplished.) All the characters are interesting, especially Ileana. She is a wonderfully imagined and developed character. Not a social child, preferring to be alone with her stories, Ileana has not one friend. Then her beloved uncle (a writer and poet) disappears and is feared dead. Ileana’s world falls apart.

Sent away, alone, with no more than the clothes on her back and a letter of introduction, this smart, strong girl finds her way through the dreaded forest to her grandparent’s village. Ileana faces a witch, takes on a group of bullies, and her own internal fears (real and imagined). By story’s end, Ileana has dramatically changed in important and positive ways.

Cunning Ileana, a Romanian fairy tale, is interwoven into the main story. Ileana and her two awful sisters are princesses courted by three equally awful princes. There are beasts of burden, dinosaurs, tricks, and betrayals. Cunning Ileana trusts, loves, and is loyal to a fault, yet knows how to protect those she loves. Kids will like the Cunning Ileana, as it is easier to understand than communism, secret police, and distrustful neighbors.

It might be difficult to imagine a world where watching the wrong television show, reading the wrong book, tuning in the wrong radio station, or even saying the wrong thing—in your own home—can cause your disappearance, an attack, or even your death. A good discussion, after a group read, will reveal many similarities to today, nearly forty years later.

The Story That Cannot Be Told, J. Kasper Kramer’s debut middle grade novel, is a well-written and enjoyable read which will grab you from the beginning and refuse to let go long after the final page. Yep, it is that good. Highly recommended.

Favorite Lines

Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.

By now, you know those sentences are the opening lines of the story. I must have read and re-read those two sentences a dozen times—not because I don’t understand them—because I like them. They are the perfect opening. Instantly, something deep in your soul grabs you from wherever you are and tells to get comfortable; you’ll be reading for a while.  And I did. And you will.

Back Matter

There is an “Author’s Note.” J. Kasper Kramer explains how she came to write The Story That Cannot Be Told. Do not skip this section.

Available at Amazon

 The Story That Cannot Be Told. Text Copyright © 2019 by J. Kasper Kramer. Jacket Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Isabella Mazzanti. Published by Antheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, NY.

Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


2 thoughts on “#1205 – The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

  1. Excellent review! I’ve always been interested in Romania, so this interests me. The Story That Cannot Be Told sounds like a thrilling read. I love the opening sentence and how you wove it into your comments. I can’t imagine the research that went into this story, since it involves folklore, fiction and fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, but a good book is always easy to review. This is all Romania during an awful time, yet the author makes the story one you cannot put down. The characters are amazing. Even the background characters seem to come to life. I really think you would enjoy this book immensely.


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