THE APARTMENT by Alexandra Litvina


A Century of Russian History
by ; illustrated by ; translated by
Age Range: 8 - 12
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Seven generations of a family in a communal apartment lead readers through 100 years of Russian history.

First published in Russia as Istoriia Staroi Kvartiry (2016), this story tracks the fictional Muromstev family from its move into the apartment in 1902 to a birthday celebration in 2002, covering major political and personal events within that time period. Double-page, diary-style spreads generally alternate between an intimate look into the apartment, with one of the current generation’s children narrating events both personal and political, and a more objective examination of the history experienced. These pages tend to be crowded with labeled illustrations of household objects, conversations among characters, and collaged-in archival images. Endpapers are plastered, scrapbook-style, with photographs and document clippings, and family trees are helpfully included prior to and following the story proper. Extensive backmatter provides further cultural elucidation. While readers might at first be skeptical of what appears to be a glorified house tour, the triumphs and tribulations of the family quickly become engrossing thanks to Litvina’s conversational, emotive text. Desnitskaya’s simple cartoon illustrations easily distinguish the many characters, although time skips of up to 12 years can make it difficult to discern who’s still alive. Readers unfamiliar with Russian might also have trouble pronouncing character names; conversely, readers who can read the language will enjoy perusing the newspaper articles and song lyrics scattered throughout. Characters are all white presenting, but the Muromstev clan includes Jewish and Georgian family members.

A visual delight for the culturally savvy. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, bibliography, index) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4197-3403-8
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019