A visual delight for the culturally savvy.

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. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3403-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


A good if limited starting guide.

Author Leavitt presents all the components of doing research into family history with easy-to-follow directions for a successful project.

The volume begins with clear definitions about genealogy and why it is important to study. It moves on to give practical tips on getting started and how to map a family tree. It introduces young readers to the important documents that can assist in gathering family facts and describes the information they provide. It gives solid directions for setting up interviews with family members and how to reach out to those who are far away. This is followed up with strategies for using online resources, including warnings on how to stay safe on social media. The work of tracing ancestors from their countries of origin can be daunting, but Leavitt gives some help in this area as well and explores the role geography can play in family stories. There is good advice for collecting oral histories, and the chapter on exploring “The Way They Were” will appeal to many, as will the concluding chapters on family reunions and keeping in touch. All of this is presented in an encouraging, upbeat tone. Sidebars, charts, illustrations, and photographs add to the accessibility. The major drawback is that it assumes a known biological lineage with heterosexual parentage; there is no mention of the unique issues adopted children and nontraditional families might have in trying to put some of the instructions into practice. A short section addresses the challenges that face African-American descendants of enslaved people.

A good if limited starting guide. (resources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2320-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017


A thorough and comprehensive treatment of the subject.

This guide to the various components of researching family history provides helpful hints for young genealogists.

Interest in family research continues across ages, and this volume explores all aspects in great detail. It begins by pointing out that all humankind began in the same place—eastern Africa—and shares what scholars believe about how various groups spread throughout the world. From then on, personal genealogy is approached as a mystery to be solved, a strategy designed to engage its target audience. The recognition that there are many types of families is a critical part of the text. All kinds of threads are explored, from documentary evidence to family stories, with suggestions on how to evaluate them. Each topic is fully described. For example, in addition to addressing how to use census data, the book discusses the origins of the census and the parts that are relevant to family research. The section on DNA is brief but gives scientific perspective. Very little is left to chance, including how to store, preserve, and retrieve the accumulated data. The narrative is inviting and lively in tone, but it doesn’t shy away from potential difficulties. It is richly illustrated in full color with sidebars to provide additional information, though some pages feel too full to digest. Diversity is woven throughout the text, illustrations, sidebars, and graphics.

A thorough and comprehensive treatment of the subject. (glossary, further resources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2983-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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