The Fruit Thieves is a debut novel by Max Simov. The story, based on Simov's own childhood in Southern Russia, follows nine year old Pasha and his younger sister Sofka on their various childhood escapades, many of which centre around raiding their neighbours' fruit orchards. This is technically forbidden, of course, not to mention a highly risky business but, then again, isn't that part of the appeal? These adventures are a lot of fun to read and had a definite feel of Roald Dahl's 'Boy' to them with the children's high attention to detail and planning of their cohort fruit stealing missions, and the inevitable chaos that often ensued.
I found myself fully invested in the characters and particularly enjoyed the children's run ins with their quirky neighbours, many of which made me nostalgic for my own childhood. The rural small-town setting in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains was another delight.
Though I am technically older than the target audience for this book, I found great joy in it and loved it so much that I finished it within a day. Max Simov is a wonderful story teller and I hope to see many more books from him in the future. I also really wish I had a colour kindle so I could do this beautiful cover justice! 4/5.
My review is live on my Instagram feed jaderia_reads now. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this book.
by NetGalley review
I found this book hugely enjoyable with its enthralling cast of characters and delightful illustrations. Even though it was written for an age group much younger than mine, I was totally captured by it. I loved how the two children at the heart of the story, through their various scrapes and adventures, come to discover many truths about the adult world, including that you cannot always judge things by their appearances.
The village where the children live lies in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. It is a magical place with a river that floods, luscious fruit orchards, and a mix of ethnicities, including Russian ‘Old Believers’ whose ancestors escaped persecution in Russia in a former century. There are some sad and some nail-biting moments in the book and we definitely meet the worst as well as the best in human nature. Many of the characters have intriguing back stories and we get fascinating glimpses of life in this remote part of the Soviet Union in the mid twentieth century.
What shines through the book for me is its pithy hopefulness and the glorious sense of freedom it conveys, as the children roam the district on their own or with friends. Oh the fruit they steal! Its deliciousness is so vividly conjured, my own mouth watered.
by Julia South
'My 9 year old daughter and I read "The Fruit Thieves" together and both thoroughly enjoyed it. She was particularly enamoured with Sofka, who she thought was funny and right to discourage her brother. Bullin was another favourite character, though for very different reasons. One aspect of the book she commented on repeatedly was the setting, it was familiar yet different. She found the forbidden orchards and the idea of stealing the fruit off the trees quite intriguing! One last mention must go to Albert the dog, and the mysterious love letter; that really captured her imagination.'
I loved The Fruit Thieves! I grew up in the Balkans and so many things reminded of my own childhood. We also had fruit in our garden but the apricots from the neighbours' garden were so much sweeter. Some parts of the book with mysterious family histories deeply touched me, especially Dimka's parents' life and the Glumins', the Old Believer couple. Pasha's and Sofka's love for their aunt Margot's pies was so understandable. The description was so tangible, I could even smell those fruit pies. When I grew up, my grandma instead of sunflower oil used to give us bread with a thin layer of lard and some sugar on top. Like for the children in the book, that seemed so delicious to us then! Thank you to the author for writing such a nice book. I look forward to more of these stories.
by MIla Novak