A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming, is a thorough and detailed history of Russia's last imperial family from the author of The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. This book, with its more straightforward narration, is targeted at a slightly older audience. There's a lot of violence in sometimes-detailed descriptions of massacres, executions, and protests, but there's no gore, and blood's mentioned only a few times. The Family Romanov gives kids a thorough understanding of a very complex era and provides a lot of food for thought about the causes and effects of important individuals, societal attitudes, and revolution.
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What's the story?
Nicholas II became emperor of Russia with little education and no training at all. Unequipped to cope with the pressures of governing, he sought refuge in his devoted family: wife Alexandra, their four daughters, and son and heir to the throne Alexei. At the same time, Russia's vast farm and factory workers, living in abject poverty, reached a breaking point and began demanding change. Eventually forced to abdicate, Nicholas and his family were taken captive by deeply embittered troops who wanted nothing more than to see the tsar dead. The captors decide the entire family, as well as the servants who remained loyal to them, must be killed before they can be freed by the quickly approaching loyalist White Army. Their plan succeeded and brought an end to a dynasty that had ruled Russia for 300 years.
Is it any good?
This is an engaging, often-riveting, detailed look into the lives of the last royal family of Russia as well as the social and political upheaval in the empire at the turn of the 20th century. Using a wealth of primary sources, Candace Fleming paints vivid portraits of the doomed family, and tweens and teens will easily relate to the young Romanovs as they grow up in unique circumstances. The only flaws are a few awkward sentences that should have been caught by an editor, such as "a combined Austrian-Germany force" and "whether the tsar chose to listen was his choice," which are unlikely to bother teens.
The book is no rosy-hued tribute from a fan of royalty. Fleming's scholarship is formidable and her empathy for all concerned evident. She deftly juxtaposes her lively look at the Romanovs with first-hand accounts from peasants and workers that help the reader understand their terrible situation. She handles the violent, tragic deaths the Romanovs and countless other people with an unvarnished but even tone, so the reader is not just appropriately horrified but also feels the impact, while thoroughly understanding cause and effect. Lots of photographs bring key people, places, and events to life and deepen the reader's understanding of the gap between the imperial family and their subjects.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why we're fascinated with the past. What can events that happened a long time ago teach us?
Do you think the author gives a balanced look at everyone, from the tsar to the peasants and revolutionaries? Do you think she's more sympathetic to one side or the other?
The first illustration shows a breakdown of Russians by class, with nobility and officials at 1.5 percent of the population and peasants and workers at 95 percent. How similar or different is that to our own socio-economic breakdown? Could events like those in Russia ever happen here? Why, or why not?
- Author: Candace Fleming
- Genre: History
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
- Publication date: July 8, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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