Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, April 25, 2011


Lilly of the Valley Egg 1898
Easter has always been the most joyful celebration of the Orthodox faithful in Russia... after attending devout church services, families gather to exchange gifts of decorated eggs, symbols of renewed life and hope.  In 1885, Tsar Alexander III needed an exceptional 20th Anniversary gift for his wife, Tsarina Maria Fedorovna.  So he commissioned an order with a young jeweler, Peter Carl Faberge.

I'm sure you'll enjoy seeing the images in this Youtube video of the beautiful Imperial Easter Eggs that were created by Faberge for the Romanov Family.  In 1894 Tsar Alexander died and the traditional gift-giving of the opulent Faberge eggs was continued by Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra until 1917, the year Nicholas was forced to abdicate after riots, strikes, and a government take over by the revolutionaries.

American historian and writer, Robert Massie, who has devoted much of his career to the study of this royal family of Imperial Russia, says..."there still are those who for political or other reasons continue to insist that Nicholas was "Bloody Nicholas." Most commonly, he is described as shallow, weak, stupid—a one-dimensional figure presiding feebly over the last days of a corrupt and crumbling system. This, certainly, is the prevailing public image of the last Tsar. Historians admit that Nicholas was a "good man"--the historical evidence of personal charm, gentleness, love of family, deep religious faith and strong Russian patriotism is too overwhelming to be denied-—but they argue that personal factors are irrelevant; what matters is that Nicholas was a bad tsar....Essentially, the tragedy of Nicholas II was that he appeared in the wrong place in history."

Here are my favorite books (mostly for older readers) about the Romanov children and family, who have long been surrounded by mystery and controversy.  Despite what your impressions may be of Tsar Nicholas II and his role in the Russian Revolution, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the intimate encounter with the Romanovs in these books whose content is derived mainly from primary sources.

Anastasia's Album: The Last Tsar's Youngest Daughter Tells Her Own StoryANASTASIA'S ALBUM: THE LAST TSAR'S YOUNGEST DAUGHTER TELLS HER OWN STORY by Hugh Brewster. 
(Ages 8 and up). Publisher's Weekly: Designed to resemble a scrapbook, this striking, profusely illustrated volume presents a sympathetic and affecting portrait of the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Romanov ruler. Brewster juxtaposes remarkably pristine period photos (some artfully hand-colored by Anastasia) with Christopher's carefully composed shots of the palaces the family inhabited and of several family possessions: a doll, a Faberge egg, a Red Cross uniform worn by one of Anastasia's sisters. His prose is equally atmospheric: Anastasia at three is "a blue-eyed whirlwind." Well-chosen excerpts from Anastasia's own correspondence and from memoirs by Romanov friends and staff heighten Anastasia's very real presence in these pages. This immediacy renders the sudden end to the siblings' carefree youth, and eventually the Romanovs' violent deaths in Siberia in 1918, all the more tragic and haunting. 

Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914 (The Royal Diaries)ANASTASIA THE LAST GRAND DUCHESS by Carolyn Meyer (Grades 4-8.)  School Library Journal: Given to Anastasia by her grandmother as a keepsake, this diary begins on the day after the Winter Ball, January 3, 1914... Through careful research, the author successfully provides interesting glimpses into daily events, family relationships, and growing up royal. Russian terminology, unobtrusively explained, is carefully blended into the narrative. Entries are simply written, brief, and sometimes unexciting. Lulls occur in some of the everyday events; yet little expressions, mini-tantrums, and exasperation reveal Anastasia's personality, her temperament, and feelings. The epilogue details events leading to the family's assassination. Black-and-white pictures, a bit grainy in quality, pique readers' interest in the Romanovs. Additional information on life in Russia in 1914, historical notes, a family tree, information about the Russian language and calendar, and a list of characters all provide wonderful background information.

Ella's Story: The Duchess Who Became a SaintELLA'S STORY:  THE DUCHESS WHO BECAME A SAINT by Maria Tobias, illustrations by Bonnie Gillis.  
(Grades 4-8.) Product description: This story brings to life the amazing journey of Princess Elizabeth (granddaughter of Queen Victoria, sister of Tsar Nicholas' wife, Alexandra), from privileged childhood to eventual martyrdom. While her biography, as St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, is available to adults, this is the first such book for girls, written in an approachable appealing style. Maria Tobias tells the Princess' story in such a lively way that the book is hard to put down. A true role model for today--Elizabeth, a real princess, is gifted with all those qualities girls still seek (intelligence, beauty, wealth, renown), converts to Orthodoxy and subsequently sheds all of this for the greater prize of the martyr's crown.

by Lubov Milar (High School/Adult.) Granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Elizabeth married the Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, uncle of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. Adopting wholeheartedly the Orthodox Faith, she dedicated herself to the commandment of love — nursing the sick, rescuing children from Moscow's slums, establishing the Martha-Mary Convent of Mercy, and ultimately receiving a martyr's crown. Ample, richly illustrated life of one of the great spiritual lights of our times.  A beautiful, but sad story, with lots of historical photographs.

An Englishman in the Court of the TsarAN ENGLISHMAN IN THE COURT OF THE TSAR (High School/Adult) Subtitle: The Spiritual Journey of Charles Sydney Gibbes. Charles Sydney Gibbes travels abroad in a crisis of faith, and his world is changed forever when he becomes a tutor to the children of the Russian royal family. Gibbes eventually returns to Great Britain, there dedicating his life as an Orthodox priest to the memory of the Imperial Family and the faith he discovered in their distant homeland.  I absolutely loved this book - it's a good account, with excerpts taken from actual letters of Sydney Gibbes, who was intimately connected with this pious family before and during the Russian Revolution.  A fascinating read.


  1. Years ago we went along to a Faberge exhibition, at the V and A I think? It was a fascinating visit, thanks for reminding me.

  2. My husband I saw an exhibit of the Imperial Faberge Eggs in San Francisco. We also saw them at the Forbes Museum in New York. Unforgettable - so exquisite in person!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing the Faberge egg movie. On my brief trip to Russia, I was bowled over by the incredible artistry available everywhere. Even cheap street-corner sketches were beautiful! I wondered if the Russian people have a particular talent.