Monday, October 6, 2014

The Family Romanov

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia
Candace Fleming
Random House, 2014  292 pgs
Grades 7-Up

Life in imperial Russia is examined, both from the side of the royal family and from that of the common peasant/factory worker.  The events and causes leading up to the revolution are explored and then Fleming leads us through this time of conflict.  The book ends with the murder of the royal family and the mystery surrounding the possibility of escape.  Fleming began this book as an account of the last royal family of Russia, but found it impossible to concentrate only on them without also delving into a larger context of the country as a whole.  First person accounts of both the nobility and of the peasants/factory workers are included, often side by side for contrast.  Two sections of original photographs are included, as is an extensive bibliography, source notes, and index.  Fleming also offers her research process and how she found her sources.

Candace Fleming is a real Renaissance woman.  She writes some of my favorite picture books (Muncha! Muncha!, Muncha!) as well as, arguably, the best non-fiction available for young people (Amelia Lost).  The Family Romanov, an extensive look at the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution as a whole, is a very worthy addition to her resume.  Admittingly, it took me a few months to get through this book, it is very dense.  But, by the sheer nature of it, it is the perfect book to leave in the car and pick up in waiting rooms, since it is composed of short pockets of information and personal stories.  I have long been fascinated by the Russian Revolution and studied Russian history in college.  This said, I still had something to learn from this book, partly from the succinct writing and approachable nature of Fleming's writing.  Her research process is beyond reproach, her information well organized and accurate, and her writing is extremely readable.  Fleming continues to put out excellent non-fiction for young people that reads like fiction.  I was disappointed that The Family Romanov was considered "teen" and was hoping to sneak it into my juvenile biography section, but after reading the graphic description of the brutal murders of the royal family, I agree that it does not belong in the juvenile section.  I have often attested that everything I know about the world I have learned from reading books for young people.  The Family Romanov adds to that statement.

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