________________ CM . . . . Volume III Number 7 . . . . November 29, 1996

cover Anastasia's Album.

Hugh Brewster.
Toronto: Madison Press Books, 1996. 63 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-670-87163-X.

Subject Headings:
Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918-Family-Juvenile literature.
Anastasia Nikolaevna, Grand Duchess, daughter of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, 1901-1918-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Sharon A. McLennan McCue.

***1/2 /4


The Tsar and his wife were expected to be at the centre of every great occasion. But Nicholas and Alexandra did not enjoy the social whirl very much. They would leave the court balls as early as possible, nodding politely to the courtiers and servants, who stood in rows, bowing.
      Once inside their private apartments, they sighed with relief as they took off their formal clothes. Then they would kiss and tuck in each one (daughter) - clever Olga, delicate Tatania, chubby little Marie, and finally the baby, golden-haired Anastasia. Once their official duties were over, the tsar and his wife liked nothing better than to board the blue imperial train with their young family and escape to the Alexander Palace Tsarskoe Selo, or the tsar's village. Here, outside high iron railings, Cossack horsemen armed with sabres guarded both the Alexander Palace and the immense blue-and-white Catherine Palace. The surrounding park included beautiful lawns and gardens, fountains and bridges, pavilions and statues. In a small lake behind the palace there was a children's island, where Anastasia and her sisters had their own playhouse.
image Despite the great strides feminism has made on its way to the nineties, little girls still want to be princesses. Here is the story of a real princess which shows a different side to the Prince-Charming/happily-ever-after scenario. Author Hugh Brewster, while viewing the Romanov family albums in Moscow's State Archives, saw the potential in telling Anastasia's story through her own letters and photographs. The resulting Anastasia's Album tells that story with sensitivity and balance, and with beauty.

      The Grand Duchess Anastasia was the fourth daughter of Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra of Russia. Because of claims that she survived the massacre that killed the rest of her family, there has always been a mystique around Anastasia - the fourth daughter who was often described as the family clown. This book takes the reader from her birth through to her seventeenth year, the year of the massacre, with a short section looking at whether or not Anastasia may have escaped.

      The photographs and letters in the book are well chosen. They make the life of this princess identifiable to readers of all classes and illustrate that despite the trappings, this was a close and loving family. We see Anastasia and her siblings at school (which she did not like) and at play. We learn that, like girls of all classes, the princesses were enthralled by beautiful dresses and drew pictures of many of the gowns worn by their mother to the multitudes of social functions she was obliged to attend.

      The happy, well-cared-for beings in the photographs grow and change in the way that all children do: from chubby, un-self conscious toddlers to shy, gangly teenagers to, what appear to be, attractive, poised young adults. One delightful picture reminds us that even the privileged classes had problems which ninety years later we don't even consider - in it, all four sisters are bald, the result of a bout of measles.

      This book has an easy, flowing style which keeps pace with and perfectly complements the pictures and letters. It is like a fine teacher who presents, nudges, and then allows the material to carry the student into a new and fascinating world.

      This book is for all ages, from ten on, though adults will find different qualities to enjoy - and cannot, perhaps, ever forget that there is no happy ending. Anastasia's Album is highly recommended for home and public collections.

Highly Recommended.

Sharon A. McLennan McCue is a former school library advisor for the Cree School Board of James Bay.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364