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)
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.
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.,
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
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.
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)"