Immensely readable and interesting, this fictive diary of Anastasia, daughter of Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra, imparts a good deal of history in an entertaining way. As the diary begins in 1914, 12-year-old Anastasia, the youngest of four sisters and the older sister of Alexei, has the normal complaints and comments of a girl with three older sisters, along with many observations unique to her circumstances and lifestyle. Political events are beginning to impinge even on Anastasia’s very protected life. “There are people who say the peasants are suffering, and blame it on Papa. There are even some people who believe that others should share in the rule of our country!” But life is not just unimaginable luxury for Anastasia and her sisters, although they live in beautiful palaces, travel on private trains, and have a wealth of servants. Aspects of their lives are spartan—the Czar insists they have “a good Russian breakfast” consisting of rye bread and herring every day, the four girls sleep on camp cots that they are required to make themselves each morning, and until recently cold baths were part of the morning routine. Anastasia is aware of the conflict between the notorious Rasputin, whom the Czarina credits with keeping her hemophiliac son Alexei alive, and the Czar, who distrusts and dislikes Rasputin. As WWI begins, Anastasia becomes more and more aware that life for her family is changing. Her diary covers the last five years of her life, taking us from her pampered life as a royal child, through the family’s house arrest in 1917, to their exile in Siberia, and finally, to their murders in Ekaterinburg on July 16, 1918. This is a story that will fascinate children for whom it will open a window into a foreign and bygone world that is not often covered in children’s historical fiction. This will be useful when the curriculum covers 20th-century Russia. Both biography lovers and fiction readers alike will gobble it up. (historical note, family tree, and other endnotes, photos, cast of characters) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-12908-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.


From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.


Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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