ANASTASIA

THE LAST GRAND DUCHESS

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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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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