Cover image for Angel on the square
Angel on the square
Whelan, Gloria.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
5 audio discs (5 hr., 30 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
In 1913 Russia, twelve-year-old Katya eagerly anticipates leaving her St. Petersburg home, though not her older cousin Misha, to join her mother, a lady in waiting in the household of Tsar Nicholas II, but the ensuing years bring world war, revolution, and undreamed of changes to her life.
General Note:
Reading Level:
10 years and up.
Added Author:
Format :
Audiobook on CD


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J FICTION CD Juvenile Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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Angel on the Square

Author Notes

Gloria Whelan was born on November 23, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. She took a strong interest in reading early in life when she was bedridden for a year with rheumatic fever. She dictated stories to her sister who would then type them. She then went on to writing poetry and later editing her high school newspaper. She attended the University of Michigan and earned her and M.S.W. degree. She began working as a social worker in Minneapolis and Detroit. She soon became tired of Detroit's hectic pace and moved to a cabin in northern Michigan.This peace was disrupted by an oil company 's desire to drill on her property. Because she did not own the mineral rights, the drilling proceeded. This experience inspired Gloria Whelan to write her children's novel, A Clearing in the Forest in 1978, which was about a boy working on an oilrig. Gloria Whelan has written several works of fiction for children and adults, many set in rural Michigan. She has also written stories set in exotic places like China and India. She won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2000 for Homeless Bird - the story of a young woman in India abandoned by her mother-in-law.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. As she does in Homeless Bird (2000), set in an Indian "city of widows," Whelan's latest novel explores less-traveled territory. This time she takes readers to 1913 Russia, and recreates the fall of the Russian empire through the perspective of a young aristocrat. Twelve-year-old Katya lives a privileged life in St. Petersburg with her mother, Irina, and teenage Misha, the orphaned son of a family friend. When Empress Alexandra invites Irina to become her lady-in-waiting, the mother and daughter move into the household of Czar Nicholas II, and Katya becomes a companion to the Czar's daughter, Anastasia. It's from this vantage point that Katya witnesses her beloved country's descent into war, the Romanovs' loss of power, and her own family's loss of wealth. Katya believes passionately in the Czar, having seen his tenderness toward his family. But revolution-minded Misha opens her eyes to Russia beyond the palace--poverty, striking workers, and unforgettable images of child laborers. Historical details and descriptions of the opulence are deftly woven into the story, and Katya's observations seem age-appropriate, with the expected vague, incomplete grasp of events. But readers without background may have trouble putting the story's pieces together, and Katya's detachment (she notices everything around her, but rarely invites readers into her emotional life) may keep them at a distance. Even so, Katya's life is fascinating, and Whelan tells her story in a way that will appeal to young people's fierce sense of justice and their penchant for pomp and glamour. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

It is 1913 in Russia, and Katya, an aristocratic girl, cannot completely support the Tsar's treatment of his people nor condone their violent reaction to oppression. In a starred review, PW called the novel "an excellent, vibrant introduction to the cause and effect of Tsar Nikolai's fall." Ages 10-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-A balanced, if dispassionate, account of the Russian Revolution. When the Empress invites her mother to be a lady-in-waiting, Katya, 12, moves to the Alexander Palace where she serves as a companion to the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Katya's "cousin" Misha has joined the student revolutionaries and disapproves of Katya's defense and love of the tsar. When Nicholas II abdicates and the family is imprisoned in their home, Katya and her mother are sent away from the family they love. With nowhere else to go, they travel to their summer dacha only to find it has been destroyed. Living and working with the local peasants, Katya works to build a new life from the ruins of the old, first by constructing a cottage for her mother, then by going back to St. Petersburg with Misha to start a new life. Brought up in wealth and luxury, she knows nothing of the hardships suffered by the Russian people until shown by Misha, who provides glimpses into the lives of the revolutionaries, the poor, and eventually the soldiers. As events unfold around her, Katya grows and changes, and is able to survive in the world that emerges. While not as engaging as Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000)-the story is told with a very matter-of-fact, first-person narration-Angel on the Square will attract readers, especially lovers of historical fiction. Pair it with Carolyn Meyer's Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914 (Scholastic, 2000) for younger readers and I Am Anastasia (Harcourt, 1959; o.p.) for older readers who have fallen under the spell of the last Grand Duchess.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Angel on the Square PLM Chapter One St. Petersburg Winter 1913 I could feel the crowd holding its breath, awaiting the moment when Tsar Nikolai II and Empress Alexandra would arrive. On this February day all of St. Petersburg was celebrating three hundred years of rule by the Romanov Tsars. How I longed to be with Mama. As a special friend of the Empress, she was already in the cathedral. I burrowed deeper into my fur-lined coat to escape the winter winds that swept across Russia all the way from icy Siberia. The soft warmth of the coat curled around me like a friendly cat. From the balcony of our mansion Misha and I looked across St. Petersburg's main avenue, the Nevsky Prospekt, to the Kazan Cathedral. The cathedral's two wings seemed to gather in all of St. Petersburg. Imperial carriages and shiny black chauffeured automobiles rolled up to the cathedral's entrance. Grand dukes in military uniform and grand duchesses in court gowns and diamond tiaras stepped onto the red carpet. The city of St. Petersburg itself was dressed in an ermine robe of snow, its frozen river and canals glittering like the duchesses' diamonds. In the distance the sun shone on the brightly colored domes of the Church of the Resurrection. "Look, Misha," I said, "The domes look like a tumble of crown jewels." He scowled. "You are a romantic child, Katya. When I look at that church, what I see is Alexander's blood." "Misha, that was years ago," I scolded. The church was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II, Tsar Nikolai's grandfather, had been assassinated. When Mama was only a baby, she witnessed the terrible scene. Her papa held her up to see Tsar Alexander only seconds before the bomb went off. Even now, after so many years, she trembled when she told the story. "No one thinks of such things now," I said, but Misha's expression did not change. Misha would not let himself be happy. He was cheerful only when he was worrying himself to death. Misha, whose proper name was Mikhail Sergeyevich Gnedich, was sixteen and thought he was a man. He attended the Tenishev School and lived with us, for his mama was my mama's dearest friend, as close to Mama as a sister. Misha's papa died bravely for Russia in a naval battle in faraway Manchuria. His mama died soon after of typhoid, though some said it was of a broken heart. When I was four, my own papa died in that war. Though Mama was very sad, she did not die like Misha's mother. Misha was tall. He was also thin, and he looked as though he did not eat much, which was not true, because he ate all the time. He took such large portions, the footman who served him had to fight to keep a smile from his face. Misha had blond hair, which he smoothed down with water to tame the curls, so he always looked like he just came out of a bath.The naughty thing about Misha was that he was forever criticizing our beloved Tsar, which made everyone furious with him. Once Mama sent Misha away from the table for blaming the Tsar for the war in which his papa and my papa died. Afterward, when I stole upstairs to Misha's room to take him food, Misha said, "It is time the Tsar let the people decide for themselves what is best for their country.""You are wrong," I said. "How can the people decide when they are uneducated and ignorant?" Misha asked angrily, "Whose fault is it that they are uneducated?" I told Misha that the Tsar, whom everyone called "Tsar-batyushev," "little father," was God's representative on earth and must surely know what was best for Russia. Misha's ideas were dangerous, and I worried that they would get him into trouble. Now Misha turned away from the balcony. "I'm going down into the street with the people," he said, and added in a sarcastic tone, "I want to hear what they are saying on this glorious occasion." "Misha, take me with you," I coaxed. "With your fancy clothes and your furs?" He shook his head."Wait a moment," I pleaded. "I'll borrow something from the servants' hall."The servants were all at the windows watching the ceremony, so it was a simple thing to snatch an old wool cloak from its peg and slip away unseen. It must have belonged to a cook, because it smelled of onions and vinegar. There was little warmth in the cloak, for the wool was worn and thin. Misha gave me one of his disapproving looks when I returned. "You must always have your own way, Katya. Your mother spoils you." That taunt was an old story with Misha. I paid no attention but followed him out a side door, hurrying to keep up, for he was stalking on ahead, pretending not to know me. I had been on the Nevsky Prospekt hundreds of times, but always with Mama or my governess, Lidya. Never before had I seen such crowds. When I finally caught up, I hung on to Misha. As the people pressed against me, I whispered to him, "They smell."Under his breath Misha hissed, "They have no soap, and for that matter how much water can you carry up four flights of stairs?" "Everyone has water in their houses," I protested. "You are a fool, Katya. You know nothing of the world." He shook off my hand and pushed his way to the front of the crowd. The sun disappeared behind dark clouds. A wet snow began to fall. I pulled the thin cloak more closely about me. An old babushka with no teeth held up a picture of the Tsar and Empress. Children waved small Russian flags, hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm. The cannons from the Peter and Paul Fortress sounded a twenty-one-gun salute. Cheers grew into a roar . . . Angel on the Square PLM . Copyright © by Gloria Whelan . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.