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Angel on the Square

Angel on the Square

4.8 36
by Gloria Whelan, Kate Forbes (Narrated by), Julie Dretzin (Narrated by)

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In St. Petersburg in 1914, Katya Ivanova is safe behind palace walls; her mother is a lady-in-waiting for the Empress. But outside, war is sweeping Europe, and unrest is brewing in Russia. As the flame of revolution ignites in a country where the rich have always ruled, Katya's once-certain future dissolves.

National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan


In St. Petersburg in 1914, Katya Ivanova is safe behind palace walls; her mother is a lady-in-waiting for the Empress. But outside, war is sweeping Europe, and unrest is brewing in Russia. As the flame of revolution ignites in a country where the rich have always ruled, Katya's once-certain future dissolves.

National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan transports readers through spare language and luminescent detail to a crumbling, war-ravaged Russia, where Katya must take her future into her own hands. Torn between a deep love of her country and an awakening political awareness, hers is a powerful story of a young woman coming of age in the shadow of the Russian Revolution—one of history's most radical times.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Author Gloria Whelan is known for her penchant for historical fiction and foreign lands. The National Book Award-winning Homeless Bird told of the strife endured by a 13-year-old girl in India, and Return to the Island told of another girl's romantic quandaries in the 1800s. Angel on the Square introduces readers to Katya Ivanova, a 13-year-old living in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution. Her mother is a lady-in-waiting to the Empress, and Katya's life in the imperial palace is lush -- and safe. The rest of Russia, however, is in turmoil as revolutionary ideas inflame the populace, and Katya is torn. She initially does not want to hear of fighting and disruption, but she slowly begins to understand the pleas of the poor. Katya begins to think outside the palace walls, and soon she herself understands firsthand the meaning of poverty.

Whelan uses her keen grasp of language and imagery to portray the tumultuous state of Russia in 1917. She shows Katya grow from an immature child to a young woman with heart. Readers will identify with her inner struggle and her battles. When her family is torn apart and her status is stripped away, Katya reveals the depths of her character. This compelling novel offers young readers a chance to explore their own worlds through the eyes of this lovely young Russian. (Amy Barkat)

Publishers Weekly
Whelan (Homeless Bird) shows both sides of the Russian revolution in a sympathetic light in this absorbing saga of an aristocratic girl. The novel opens in 1913, just before Katya goes to live with Tsar Nikolai II, when her widowed mother becomes lady-in-waiting to the Empress. The royal couple and their children are like a second family to Katya. Still, the heroine cannot completely support the tsar's treatment of his people. Guided by her revolutionist friend, Misha, she witnesses the exploitation of workers in the city. Later, her exposure to country peasants forces her to realize that her own noble family is partially responsible for the peasants' suffering. On the other hand, Katya does not condone the violent reaction to oppression that is sweeping across her beloved country. Tracing each stage of Katya's enlightenment through intimate first-person narrative, Whelan brings immediacy to the historical events, offering well-rounded depictions of characters and vivid descriptions of their surroundings. The author sharply contrasts the luxurious conditions Katya enjoys in her early adolescence with the meagerness of her life five years later at the revolution's end. The book's uncomplicated language and sensitive treatment of political issues make it an excellent, vibrant introduction to the cause and effects of Tsar Nikolai's fall. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
This historical fiction integrates the events that led to the Russian Revolution in a reliable and finely balanced first person account. It is 1913 in St. Petersburg, and twelve-year-old Katya lives an aristocratic life with her beautiful mother and Misha, the orphaned son of a close family friend. Empress Alexandra has chosen Katya's mother as a lady in waiting. While she anticipates the honor and adventure this will bring to her life, Katya also awakens to the inequities between the classes in her city. With the intellectual revolutionary Misha as her guide, she sees children weak from hunger working in sweatshops and barred from school. She watches as brutal Cossacks charge at striking women workers with horses and whips. Still, Katya loves her adopted family, especially Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the royal Romanov family. As she matures and continues to record her experiences, Katya describes with a clear and objective eye the failings of Tsar Nikolai II and the havoc war and revolution bring to Russia. Katya, her mother and Misha all survive, but find themselves in a world far from that imagined by the idealistic student revolutionaries. As Misha says, "I thought I understood what was best for Russia. I knew too little and believed too soon." 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 10 up. Reviewer:Melissa J. Rickey
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2001: The reader encounters a young narrator, 12 years old, a spoiled daughter of a Russian countess. Katya is excited about the new position of her mother as a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Alexandra, a position that means that she and her mother will live with the tsar's family for much of the time. In Katya's household is Misha, 16 years old, who has revolutionary ideas, who sees the terrible poverty in Russia and wants democracy. The novel begins in the year 1913. It continues until Katya is 18 years old, and during those years she becomes aware of the inequities in Russian society, the weakness of the tsar, and the horror of Russian casualties in WW I described to her by Misha, a soldier. By the end of Katya's story, the tsar and his family have been executed and Lenin is in charge of Russia. Katya, her mother, and Misha are living the lives of Russian peasants, stripped of all their wealth. Whelan is careful with the historical facts and conveys the injustices, the mistakes, and the ineptitude that were causes of the Russian Revolution. It is a complicated story. A YA reader has to be patient through the childish beginning of the story and to persevere into the heart of the historical events that Katya and Misha experience. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, HarperTrophy, 293p.,
— Claire Rosser
In 1913, the mother of twelve-year-old Katya becomes a lady-in-waiting for Empress Alexandria, wife of Tsar Nicholas II. When they move into the palace, Katya befriends Anastasia, the youngest daughter. Although she has lived a life of privilege, Katya grows increasingly aware of the injustices endured by the common Russian people and of their disillusionment with government leaders. The reader experiences five years of history through Katya's eyes as the story line follows life with the royal family, the war with Germany, the Bolshevik revolution, and the execution of the imperial family. By the end of the book, Katya celebrates her eighteenth birthday and creates a new life for herself and her mother. The strength of this well-crafted story lies in the character of Katya. The reader witnesses her transformation from spoiled child of privilege to an independent young woman who creates her own life on her own terms. Katya is presented as a woman of strength and determination, a survivor. The book will renew the intrigue of the story of Anastasia and might create an interest in this period of Russian and world history. Although Russian terms are defined within the text, a glossary is also included in the back of the book. Glossary. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 304p, $15.95. PLB $15.89. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Mary Ann Capan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-A balanced, if dispassionate, account of the Russian Revolution. When the Empress invites her mother to be a lady-in-waiting, Katya, 12, moves to the Alexander Palace where she serves as a companion to the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Katya's "cousin" Misha has joined the student revolutionaries and disapproves of Katya's defense and love of the tsar. When Nicholas II abdicates and the family is imprisoned in their home, Katya and her mother are sent away from the family they love. With nowhere else to go, they travel to their summer dacha only to find it has been destroyed. Living and working with the local peasants, Katya works to build a new life from the ruins of the old, first by constructing a cottage for her mother, then by going back to St. Petersburg with Misha to start a new life. Brought up in wealth and luxury, she knows nothing of the hardships suffered by the Russian people until shown by Misha, who provides glimpses into the lives of the revolutionaries, the poor, and eventually the soldiers. As events unfold around her, Katya grows and changes, and is able to survive in the world that emerges. While not as engaging as Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000)-the story is told with a very matter-of-fact, first-person narration-Angel on the Square will attract readers, especially lovers of historical fiction. Pair it with Carolyn Meyer's Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914 (Scholastic, 2000) for younger readers and I Am Anastasia (Harcourt, 1959; o.p.) for older readers who have fallen under the spell of the last Grand Duchess.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young Russian aristocrat comes of age during the Great War and the Russian Revolution. In 1913, 13-year-old Katya's life is good: she is about to join the Tsar's household with her Mama, who has just been appointed Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress. Her best friend and foster brother Misha, a young intellectual with revolutionary leanings, cannot dampen her enthusiasm with his talk of the people's privations and dire predictions of war, but over the course of the next five years, Katya witnesses the outbreak of war and both revolutions, and is eventually reduced to the life of a peasant. Trying to encapsulate this particular sweep of history in 300 pages is no easy task, and Whelan ("Homeless Bird", 2000, etc.) clearly struggles with the challenge of establishing sympathy for the Tsar's family while at the same time allowing her protagonist to understand the depths of the social injustice that ultimately brings about her downfall. This results in a character who ultimately observes but never acts. When the royal family heads to the army's headquarters, they do so in luxuriously appointed railroad cars; on the same train, soldiers travel to the front in empty boxcars. Katya is "embarrassed by our show of luxury. I wondered what the soldiers thought of us as they watched us climb into our comfortable quarters, trailed by servants and piles of luggage." While this is possibly psychologically consistent and clearly serves a narrative purpose, it is unsatisfying. Still, the novel serves as an introduction, if inevitably oversimplified and largely devoid of political discussion, to a complicated and important period in world history, and from a perspective that will naturally appeal to kidswhose exposure to the events is from animated videos. (glossary) "(Fiction. 10-15)"

Product Details

Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Angel on the Square PLMChapter One

St. Petersburg
Winter 1913

I could feel the crowd holding its breath, awaiting the moment when Tsar Nikolai II and Empress Alexandra would arrive. On this February day all of St. Petersburg was celebrating three hundred years of rule by the Romanov Tsars. How I longed to be with Mama. As a special friend of the Empress, she was already in the cathedral. I burrowed deeper into my fur-lined coat to escape the winter winds that swept across Russia all the way from icy Siberia. The soft warmth of the coat curled around me like a friendly cat. From the balcony of our mansion Misha and I looked across St. Petersburg's main avenue, the Nevsky Prospekt, to the Kazan Cathedral. The cathedral's two wings seemed to gather in all of St. Petersburg.

Imperial carriages and shiny black chauffeured automobiles rolled up to the cathedral's entrance. Grand dukes in military uniform and grand duchesses in court gowns and diamond tiaras stepped onto the red carpet.

The city of St. Petersburg itself was dressed in an ermine robe of snow, its frozen river and canals glittering like the duchesses' diamonds. In the distance the sun shone on the brightly colored domes of the Church of the Resurrection. "Look, Misha," I said, "The domes look like a tumble of crown jewels."

He scowled. "You are a romantic child, Katya. When I look at that church, what I see is Alexander's blood."

"Misha, that was years ago," I scolded. The church was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II, Tsar Nikolai's grandfather, had been assassinated. When Mama was only a baby, she witnessed the terrible scene. Her papa held her up to see Tsar Alexanderonly seconds before the bomb went off. Even now, after so many years, she trembled when she told the story. "No one thinks of such things now," I said, but Misha's expression did not change. Misha would not let himself be happy. He was cheerful only when he was worrying himself to death.

Misha, whose proper name was Mikhail Sergeyevich Gnedich, was sixteen and thought he was a man. He attended the Tenishev School and lived with us, for his mama was my mama's dearest friend, as close to Mama as a sister. Misha's papa died bravely for Russia in a naval battle in faraway Manchuria. His mama died soon after of typhoid, though some said it was of a broken heart. When I was four, my own papa died in that war. Though Mama was very sad, she did not die like Misha's mother.

Misha was tall. He was also thin, and he looked as though he did not eat much, which was not true, because he ate all the time. He took such large portions, the footman who served him had to fight to keep a smile from his face. Misha had blond hair, which he smoothed down with water to tame the curls, so he always looked like he just came out of a bath.The naughty thing about Misha was that he was forever criticizing our beloved Tsar, which made everyone furious with him. Once Mama sent Misha away from the table for blaming the Tsar for the war in which his papa and my papa died.

Afterward, when I stole upstairs to Misha's room to take him food, Misha said, "It is time the Tsar let the people decide for themselves what is best for their country.""You are wrong," I said. "How can the people decide when they are uneducated and ignorant?"

Misha asked angrily, "Whose fault is it that they are uneducated?"

I told Misha that the Tsar, whom everyone called "Tsar-batyushev," "little father," was God's representative on earth and must surely know what was best for Russia. Misha's ideas were dangerous, and I worried that they would get him into trouble.

Now Misha turned away from the balcony. "I'm going down into the street with the people," he said, and added in a sarcastic tone, "I want to hear what they are saying on this glorious occasion."

"Misha, take me with you," I coaxed.

"With your fancy clothes and your furs?" He shook his head."Wait a moment," I pleaded. "I'll borrow something from the servants' hall."The servants were all at the windows watching the ceremony, so it was a simple thing to snatch an old wool cloak from its peg and slip away unseen. It must have belonged to a cook, because it smelled of onions and vinegar. There was little warmth in the cloak, for the wool was worn and thin.

Misha gave me one of his disapproving looks when I returned. "You must always have your own way, Katya. Your mother spoils you." That taunt was an old story with Misha. I paid no attention but followed him out a side door, hurrying to keep up, for he was stalking on ahead, pretending not to know me.

I had been on the Nevsky Prospekt hundreds of times, but always with Mama or my governess, Lidya. Never before had I seen such crowds. When I finally caught up, I hung on to Misha. As the people pressed against me, I whispered to him, "They smell."Under his breath Misha hissed, "They have no soap, and for that matter how much water can you carry up four flights of stairs?"

"Everyone has water in their houses," I protested.

"You are a fool, Katya. You know nothing of the world." He shook off my hand and pushed his way to the front of the crowd. The sun disappeared behind dark clouds. A wet snow began to fall. I pulled the thin cloak more closely about me.

An old babushka with no teeth held up a picture of the Tsar and Empress. Children waved small Russian flags, hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm. The cannons from the Peter and Paul Fortress sounded a twenty-one-gun salute. Cheers grew into a roar . . .

Angel on the Square PLM. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square; Burying the Sun; Once on This Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Return to the Island. She lives in the woods of northern Michigan.

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Angel on the Square 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Angel on the Square when I was ten and I absolutely loved it! The Romanov family and the history behind them is just so fascinating! This family is my favorite royal family. The story behind them just draws you in. I highly recommend this book.
Mdesmondobrien More than 1 year ago
How do you describe the magnetism some books have when you're half-asleep at eleven p.m. looking for something to read? This book appeared on my bedside table one day, probably rescued from 10-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother's perpetual room cleaning, and somehow "I'll read a page or two" turned into the whole book. Go figure. It's a book we were supposed to study in our homeschool group one summer, only I moved. Somehow I still ended up with a copy, and with my friends back at my old home telling me it was the best book I'd ever read, I knew I'd have to make time for it eventually. It's one of those blurbless books, though, the ones that rely on the author's name to propel them into readers' hands, and let's face it - I was seven. I didn't care about authors, I cared about stories. So imagine my surprise when I finally picked it up and discovered, miracle of miracles, a story. Not just any story, but a Story. As I re-read descriptions of wealthy Katya's life in St. Petersburg, the incredible luxury of the Winter Palace, a parade of mouthwatering clothing and food descriptions to put The Hunger Games to shame, it all came flooding back how crushingly disappointed I had been when the Russian Revolution came, like I'd known it was going to even at seven. It's like when you watch the Titanic, and every time you pray you don't sink - some dreams feel too good to end. With each consecutive re-read, at eight years old, nine, ten, twelve, I'd usually put the book down at right about the start of World War I. Last night, though, I plowed straight through to the end, and to my surprise found that I liked the end better than the beginning, even though it made me cry. Go figure. This is one of those rare books where the characters grow up with you - Katya from a sheltered brat to a confused teen to a compassionate woman. While my head didn't particularly thank me for my up-till-one-in-the-morning stunt, I can't say I've found a better book to re-read in a long time. And now that the author does actually mean something to me, I'll have to find the rest of Gloria Whelan's work; though I'm not sure I'll love any setting quite as much as I loved her Russia.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I read this in elementary school and I have never forgotten it. Katya shows amazing strength and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds and still manages to retain her innate goodness and compassion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Angle on the square. I highly recomend this fantastic book
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Tade Goddard More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. I had to read it in school last year because we were studying that era. I remember the whole class had to read it and a lot of people thought it was going to be lame and all the others ( oncluding me) did not think it was going to be the worst book ever but we were not exactly excited about it. We were ALL suprised! Everyone LOVED it even the people that do not get into books. If anyone is thinking about reading this, I say do not think twice... get it for sure.
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I chose this book to read in class from about 10 other books. We could only read about 2 chapters a night but i didn't want to stop!!! I could have finished it so much sooner if we didnt have to read it in school. I was really good!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Angel on the Square is a book that is a LOT of fun!!! When I got choices for what book I wanted to read in school, Angel on the Square was one choice out of 4. I was doubtful, but eventually chose it in the end. I DEFINITELY got A LOT more than I expected! I was very absorbed from the beginning, and could never wait to read the next chapter everyday. It is about a rich Russian girl growing up in the early 1900s. I won't spoil the rest!! Katya is my favorite character. I think she is beautiful and a kind girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love russia so this was a great read. I finished it in a day. I've read it about 3 other times.Very sad at end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have loved this book sooooooooo much! Even though I am a historical fiction fan it is still stupendous even if you aren't into the historical theme. It is about a girl who grows up like a princess, but I won't spoil the suprise! This summer I went to St. Petersburg Russia (and was very fortunate to do so!) and got to see where some of the story took place. This book helps explain the royal families hardships and terrible treatment till their death. Read the book and see for yourself the magic and wonder of its charm! It is sooooooooo hard to put down!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over the summer I had a lot of time to read and one of my favorites from the many I read was Angel on the Square. This book is a historical fiction novel with a great plot that keeps you guessing until the end. The author of Angel On The Square is Gloria Whelan. She writes about where she lives in Oxbow Lake, Michigan. However, sometimes she writes about early times in other countries like, China, India, Russia, and Vietnam. I don¿t think she would be considered an expert on the subject of the Russian Revolution. Even though she has written many different books about different countries she has never traveled to the place to experience the true culture. She only researches the topic or place before she writes. She once said, ¿This gives me a chance to live in other countries and in other times -- at least in my head.¿ Because that this book is a character narrative you cannot really see the author¿s point of view. But, the main character, Katya, expresses a strong opinion about being loyal to the royal family, even if it tears her from her best friend. This is a fiction story of a young girl, Katya and her mother, struggling to survive through the Russian Revolution. Even though it¿s fiction it still gives you the history of what happened during the Russian Revolution. The major hook in this story was to see if Katya, her mother, and the rest of the royal family could make it to safety, and live in peace. Through the story Katya went from a fancy house in St. Petersburg to being locked up with the rest of the royal family in a tiny shack in Siberia. In the creative way that Gloria Whelan presents the information in a very convincing and interesting way. It will keep you guessing about the lives of the characters and the plot. She has written a companion to this book, The Impossible Journey. It¿s about after the Russian Revolution, when the country is still unstable. Katya returned to Russia and marries; she becomes actively involved in politics against the government. She was then exiled to Siberia. The story continues about her children trying to find their mother in Siberia. From what I¿ve heard and read, all of the information made sense and didn¿t conflict; it was just presented in a different way. The main character was rich instead of being a person living on the streets. Katya had different views, experiences, and opinions than others. Before I read that book I knew nothing about the Russian Revolution. Now I have a basic knowlage and timeline of what happened. I would highly recommend this book. With action, mystery, and a hint of romance Angel On The Square would be a must need, for anyone¿s book collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As Katya read the paper, all the terrifying thoughts and images of her beloved country falling apart, came to her. ¿Twenty thousand Russian soldiers had been killed. Seventy thousand had been taken prisoner by the Germans¿I thought, this is all happening because on country wanted a piece of another country.¿ (i.e. Gloria Whelan.) Katya was the daughter of the Empress¿s Lady in waiting. The Tsar and the Empress of Russia, and their children, treated Katya and her mother as if they were a part of the family. They all lived in the palace and life was wonderful. All until the fall of 1914, now as Katya¿s cherished homeland, slowly falls apart; Katya, Katya¿s mother, the empress, the Tsar, and their children are prisoners in their own palace. Gloria Whelan wrote this book, Angel on the Square. Gloria Whelan is a poet and short story writer. She has written many children¿s books such as, Night of the full moon, goodbye, Once on this island, and many more. Whelan has received the notable Achievement award from the educational press association of America. Whelan has been writing since before she could! She would tell her Nanny her stories and her Nanny would type them out. It was in elementary school that she started her poetry. She and her husband live in the woods of Northern Michigan.