Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Impossible Journey

The Impossible Journey

4.3 8
by Gloria Whelan

See All Formats & Editions

One Russian night in 1934, Marya and Georgi's parents disappear. Despite high risks, Katya and Misha had spoken against the government. The children, alone and desperate, fear the worst. Will they ever see their parents again?

But all it takes is one crumpled letter to give Marya and Georgi hope and send them on a dangerous mission to reunite their family.


One Russian night in 1934, Marya and Georgi's parents disappear. Despite high risks, Katya and Misha had spoken against the government. The children, alone and desperate, fear the worst. Will they ever see their parents again?

But all it takes is one crumpled letter to give Marya and Georgi hope and send them on a dangerous mission to reunite their family. They must steal away in the dark of night, escape the city, and find passage to the great Siberian wilderness. And even then, if they succeed in getting away, their journey will have only just begun.

In this companion novel to her breathtaking Russian epic Angel on the Square, National Book Award winning author Gloria Whelan takes readers on a remarkable journey that is both perilous and transforming.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This sequel to Angel on the Square, set a generation after the Russian Revolution, follows a 13-year-old who, with her younger brother, goes in search of her mother and encounters numerous obstacles along the way. PW said the author "paints a vivid, realistic picture of a newly formed communist state." Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Gloria Whelan's historical fiction book, The Impossible Journey, tells about a family living during the Russian Revolution. This book highlights the family's struggles with the Communist party in St. Petersburg in 1934. The mother and father of this family are arrested for betraying Stalin after the death of Kirov's murder, leaving Marya and Georgi, their two children, with their next-door neighbors when they are sentenced to prison. Marya and Georgi make an impossible journey to Siberia to find their mother—they run away with only a handful of food and money to avoid being sent to an orphanage. On the journey to Siberia, they encounter a doctor who is working for the government and allows the children to use his family's passport to board a train for Siberia. When they leave the train, the children have a hike of more than one thousand miles. The Samoyed tribe helps the children with yet another part of their impossible journey. Read this fascinating book to find out if the children succeed in their long journey through many different lands to reach Siberia. Like good historical fiction, author Whelan shows readers how people lived during the time of the Russian Revolution. It opened up a new door of learning for me about the Russian Revolution, such as the condition of the prison camps in Siberia. I found it a captivating book that I could not put down. 2003, HarperCollins Publisher,
— Lindsay Myers <%ISBN%>0066238110
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2003: Rather unsophisticated younger YAs in the 10- to 13-year-old range, who like historical fiction and improbable adventures, are the audience for this novel—the cover art is reflective of this lack of sophistication. The setting is Stalin-era Russia in the 1930s. When their liberal parents are arrested and sent to Siberia, Marya and her little brother Georgi are left with neighbors who don't really want them, so Marya (at 13) decides to travel across Russia to join their mother in Siberia. First they must journey by train for days, and then they face a 1000-mile trek along a major river to the Siberian village where their mother lives in exile. (Their father is in a prison camp, and they don't know where he is.) The journey is the story, essentially, and it is filled with numerous adventures, from attacks by bears and mosquitoes to threats from greedy people and bureaucrats, but above all with resourcefulness on the part of the children (Georgi is only eight years old), and the kindness of strangers—especially the nomadic Samoyed people who herd reindeer in Siberia. These folks take in the children and deliver them safely to their mother, riding the reindeer the final part of the journey. Whelan has done her research and the details of the time and place seem quite real—but readers do have to suspend their disbelief a bit at the improbable elements in the plot. (A companion to Angel on the Square). KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, HarperTrophy, 248p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A story of a remarkable 13-year-old girl in an extraordinary situation. In Leningrad, in 1934, Marya sets out to find her parents, former aristocrats and therefore considered enemies of the state, who have been sent to Siberia as political prisoners. The spirited and resourceful girl learns that her mother is in Dudinka, a thousand miles from the closest railway station. Marya obtains a few rubles selling her paintings (like Kobe in Homeless Bird [HarperCollins, 2000], Marya's creativity helps sustain her) and buys tickets for herself and her younger brother. At the railway station, the children begin their trek, finding their way by following a river. Some strangers help them; others conspire to report them to the authorities for placement in an orphanage. A tribe of reindeer-herding Samoyeds helps the children to their final stop, where they are reunited with their mother. Papa, who had been sent to a coal-mining camp in Siberia, eventually joins them, but is so ill that he dies at the first signs of spring. Life under Stalin as seen through the eyes of Marya is accessible, well researched, and culturally insightful. Lyrical prose conveys both a strong sense of place and the tremendous love that compels the protagonist to find her parents. Once again, Whelan successfully explores territory less traveled in books for young people.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The year is 1934, and Stalin has begun his own reign of terror, rounding up political dissidents under the slightest pretext. When Marya and Georgi’s parents are taken by the NKVD, they find themselves alone in Leningrad with no support beyond a couple of greedy neighbors. Their mother is relocated to Siberia, their father to a gulag; despite the thousands of miles between them, the children, 13 and 7, respectively, set out alone to join their mother. Whelan, returning to Russia after Angel on the Square (2001) (whose young protagonist is Marya and Georgi’s mother), paints a picture of a country where all live in fear and propaganda has taken over school curricula. The children navigate this perilous terrain with the help of some few good souls and heaps of luck. Chief among these heaps of luck is the convenient group of Samoyeds who befriend the children and take them north on reindeer back; this provides both a charming interlude and a credibility-stretching piece of narrative strategy, turning their improbable journey into a truly impossible one. Marya’s first-person narration effectively conveys the frustration of an older sibling desperately trying to keep a much younger one in line, but otherwise displays a degree of detachment that renders her more a reporter than an actor. Regrettably enough, the Soviet believers exist only as types, making for an unsubtle delineation between good and evil: "Comrade Tikonov stared coldly at me. . . . She gave a cruel laugh." Like its predecessor, this offering takes 21st-century American readers back to a time and place largely ignored in children’s literature; it is a pity that this time and place are not made more immediate and vivid. (Fiction.9-13)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Russian Saga , #2
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
602 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Impossible Journey

Chapter One

Leningrad 1934

Comrade Sergei Kirov was killed on the first day of December. That same night my parents disappeared. The day of Kirov's assassination was a school day and started out like any other. I awoke shivering because my brother, Georgi, who is seven, six years younger than I, had stolen our quilt to wrap himself like a caterpillar in its cocoon. Trying to touch as little of the cold floor as possible, I picked my way across the room. From the window I could see the snow-covered jumble of Leningrad's rooftops and, beyond them, the Neva River. The freezing winds were rushing down from Siberia to lock the Neva in ice.

I pulled on wool stockings and slipped a sweater over my blouse, leaving my hair for Mama to braid. Then I did something wicked. There are people who carefully plan all they do. I'm sure such people never get into trouble. But how do they get anything done? If you think too much about a plan, you think of all the reasons against carrying it out. I rush at things and never make plans. With me everything gets done. The trouble comes later.

I hastily opened a dresser drawer and felt way in the back for the little box I had once discovered there. Inside the box, wrapped in flannel, was a gold locket wreathed with tiny diamonds. I slipped the flannel with the locket into my pocket.

Before I left the room, I poked at the soft lump that was Georgi to awaken him. When he pretended to be asleep, I poked harder. "You have to get up, or we'll be late for school."

"Marya, let me be," his muffled voice came from deep inside the covers. "It's too cold to get up."

I gave the quilt a tug, unrolling Georgi. Ducking the pillows he flung my way, I hurried into the warmth of the kitchen. The tiny kitchen was off our sitting room, where Mama and Papa slept. Down a hall was the washroom, which we shared with the Zotov family. Sergei Ivanovich Zotov was a tall, skinny man like a twist of rope. Olga Pavlovna Zotov was thin like her husband and greedy. If we left our soap in the washroom, it disappeared.

We often found bear hairs in the bathtub, for Mr. Zotov owned a bear cub. You could find Mr. Zotov any day on the Nevsky Prospekt, Leningrad's main street. Holding the cub's leash in one hand and a tin cup in the other, he collected money from the passersby. When a cub grew too large, Mr. Zotov sold it off to a circus. With the money he bought a new cub.

Our warm kitchen was my favorite place. The teakettle was dancing over the fire, the steam from its spout clouding the windows. The day before, Papa had gone to the pawnshop and traded his fur hat to get money for a winter jacket for Georgi.

Mama was setting out sausage and cheese and bowls of hot kasha. "Let me do your hair, Marya," she said. Mama was gentle, never pulling too tightly.

Papa watched. "Spun gold," he teased. "It would take only a lock or two to buy the whole city."

"St. Petersburg is already ours," Mama said. "We have the Summer Garden and the Neva and the Prospekt. It's all there for the taking."

"Katya," Papa cautioned. "Not St. Petersburg! It is now Leningrad. What if the children should call the city St. Petersburg in front of strangers? The man with the mustache might hear of it."

The name of our city had been changed from St. Petersburg to Leningrad after Comrade Lenin died. Lenin was the father of the Communist revolution. "The man with the mustache" was what Papa called Russia's ruler, Comrade Stalin. Papa and Mama despised Comrade Stalin, though this was a dangerous opinion to hold.

Stalin's people had turned my grandmother and her friends out of their land, stealing it and forcing them onto a state farm. There the work was so hard and food so scarce, my grandmother had died.

Georgi stumbled into the kitchen, his sweater inside out, one stocking on and one off. He climbed onto Mama's lap like a fledgling into its nest. "I don't think I should go to school today," he said. "I don't feel so well."

Mama looked closely at him. "Does anything hurt?" she asked.

Georgi thought for a minute. "My ears and my toes."

Mama tried not to smile. She felt his forehead. "You're fine, Georgi. Now let me turn your sweater right side out." She gave Papa a quick, worried look. "Are we having a meeting tonight?"

Papa frowned. "I think we must," he said.

"Misha," Mama warned, "these are such dangerous times. Everywhere, you hear rumors that Stalin is angry with Comrade Kirov for opposing him."

In this year of 1934 Comrade Kirov was the head of the Communist Party in Leningrad and the city's most important man. I had seen Kirov being driven about the city in a big black car. He was a short, square man in a worn black coat who always had bodyguards around him like a flock of crows chasing a small black bird.

Papa said, "There's much about Kirov I don't trust, but what other hope do we have?"

Impatient with all the talk, Georgi helped himself to more kasha, getting porridge all over the floor. Mama reached for the rag, and no more was said about the meeting.

After breakfast Papa left for Leningrad University, where he ought to have been a professor, for he was very learned. Instead he worked there as a janitor, for Papa's parents had been aristocrats. Stalin said all aristocrats were enemies of the people, so Papa was no longer allowed to teach ...

The Impossible Journey. 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Impossible Journey 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Comrade Sergei Kirov was killed on the first day of December. The same night my parents disappeared. This is one of the best leads I think I have ever read. The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan was a very good book. It was exiting and the things you would least expect happen. Marya¿s parents were arrested on the first day of December for not liking Comrad Stalin and being against the communist government. They are sent away and Marya and her brother Georgi are sent to live with there neighbors. One day when Marya gets home from school she has a letter on the table. It was from her mother. In the letter it said she was ok and living in a village in Siberia called Dudinka. She doesn¿t know where there father is. the government wouldn¿t let her see him. Marya sees the address on the letter and decides to find her mother. Marya and her brother escape and begin their journey. When they get on the train they meet a nice man. He tells them he is going to Siberia to be a doctor in a concentration camp. Marya thinks it may be the place where her father is and gives him the address of where they are going. She tells him if he sees her father to give it to him. On there journey the encounter bears and a tribe of people called Samoyeds. Will Marya and Georgi ever see there parents again? If you like adventures and exciting things this book is for you. Gloria Whelan is a very talented writer. She makes this book one of a kind. If you read this book I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I hope it won¿t disappoint you. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books by Gloria Whelan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan is exciting and overall wonderful. During the time of the Russian revolution, everyone was in misery. There was a communist party that had put all the citizens of Russia in poverty. One night, one family was happily at home together. A mother, a father, and two children by the name of Georgi (The eight year old boy) and Marya (a 13 year old girl). Suddenly, their parents were taken from them. From there on, Marya and Georgi were on there own, but not completely. They were forced to stay with their neighbors for a about a week or more. One day, with Marya in charge, she and Georgi set off on their journey to find their mother who was sent to a little town called Dudinka. On their journey they have met many people who can be trusted. Walking by foot alongside the river in the Siberian wilderness. Through the storms they kept going with little food in their knapsacks. They were going fine until they were captured by the Samoyeds. Traveling with the Samoyeds, they fill up on food and new protective clothes. Thinking that the journey is impossible, they tried the best they could to get as close to their mother. What will their fate be? Will they ever see their parents again or will they be put in an orphanage? The only way to find out is if you read the book. So go on, read it. You will be amazed at the two children's journey. I loved reading the book and hope that you will love it just as much as I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE IMPOSSIBLE JOURNEY Gloria Whelan Fiction ISBN:0-06-44108-8 248 pages The story in THE IMPOSSIBLE JOURNEY is set in Leningrad Russia during 1934. Russia was ruled by the communists. If you were against the ways of communism you were considered a criminal and would most likely be taken away and become a slave. Unfortunately for Marya and Georgie their parents were against communism. The story starts out during the time of the assassination of Sergei Kirov, the communist leader of Russia. Kirov¿s assassination has the whole city in an uproar. The police are out to get anyone who opposes communism. Marya¿s and Georgie¿s parents are found and taken away. This leaves the two children alone, but the neighbors are nice enough to take the them to stay at their house. Marya soon finds that their neighbors are taking her families belongings and using them. Not long after starting to stay at the neighbors house Marya and Georgie go to the prison to see their mother. Their mother says she is going to be taken away. A while later the children receive a letter from their mother saying where she is and where their father is. The children decide they must get to their mother so they set off on an impossible journey to the town of Dudinka which is about 1000 miles away. For Marya it seems as if they will never make it to Dudinka, but she can not show it because it will make her little brother lose hope that he will never see his parents again. During the journey there are many times when a big obstacle is in there way. They encounter a fisherman who wants to take advantage of them and make them work for him,a few bears come into their camping ground. There is also the biggest challenge of all, not letting the government or anyone who believes in communism find out what they are doing. Will Marya and Georgie make it to Dudinka? Will the challenges they face be overcome? Each time Marya and Georgie face a challenge it begins to make them question more and more whether there is still hope that they will make it Dudinka safely, let alone before winter starts. Repeatedly Marya tells Georgie they will see their parents again, but she gets more and more uncertain of what she is telling her brother every day. On top of that the children have to travel fast. Winter is quickly creeping up on them and if it catches up Marya and Georgie will be stranded in the wild before being able to reach Dudinka. This journey is a long and tough one, although they get help at times they always have to keep on moving. The food they eat is usually fish because of Georgies fishing skills, but they soon grow tired of it and find themselves with nothing other than fish to eat. THE IMPOSSIBLE JOURNEY by Gloria Whelan is a book that will be enjoyed by many people. Readers will be whisked in to the lives of Marya and Georgie and be able to easily understand the emotions of the characters while at the same time learning of an adventure that will not soon be forgotten. ----Reviewed by Zach Kononov
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Impossible Journey Gloria Whelan HarperCollins Realistic Fiction ISBN: 0064410838 248 Pages A companion to the book Angel on the Square is the book The Impossible Journey. The book The Impossible Journey is an Adventure/Survival story of two children and their quest to find their parents, who were arrested and shipped off to Siberia. After the arrest of their parents, Marya and Georgi, must go to the feared headquarters of the NKVD, People¿s Commissariat of Internal Affairs; the Soviet secret police, where they have taken their parents. The NKVD is so feared that people run by it and won¿t walk on the same side of the road of it. When Marya and Georgi arrive they are not exactly welcomed with hugs and kisses, they were not really welcomed at all. After convincing the secretary to let them see the head of the NKVD, Comrade Yakir, more trouble arose when the Comrade would not tell the children where their parents were located. Finally after a long session of talking they finally found it out, The Kresti Prison, a very feared place where people walked in but never came out. When the once calm and peaceful area in witch they lived became hectic and had the jail population rise people became very angry with the new leader they had. Lots of children and adults became very sad and upset because they lot friends and family members but kids were also becoming orphans. Is all this the peoples fault? Is there any chance that Marya and Georgi will see their parents again? If you read this book you will ask these questions and more during this suspenseful tale. For all lovers of the genre of adventure/survival this is the book for you. If you like suspenseful book this is the book for you. Another way you will love this book is the way the author, Gloria Whelan, makes the story detailed and believable, but keeping it a simple read. The way she made it an easy read is by keeping the story straight forward and not putting subplots in. But my favorite part of the book was how I could relate to the main character because of the age similarity. --- reviewed by Alec Shogan (student reviewer)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Katya is back along with Misha. This is the story of their children.