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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

In 1918, in a Russian cellar, Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov was murdered with the rest of her family.  Or so history tells us.  Thanks to old magics, Anastasia was rescued by the witch Baba Yaga and now spends her days confined in a tiny hut perched on chicken legs. With only the witch and a doll for company, Anastasia writes letters to her family, and waits.
Meanwhile, in present day Chicago, Anne Michaelson’s plagued by disturbing dreams of a girl in a white dress. Still dealing with the death of her brother, David,  she finds herself haunted by a mysterious boy, who she first glimpses staring at her during a Swan Lake performance. 
In the dreams, the two girls’ worlds converge. And each discovers, that despite the decades between them, they’re more deeply connected than anyone would ever guess.
I was first intrigued by this title because of the mystery surrounding the Romanovs, and most notably, Anastasia. To take the story of Anastasia, and weave a fantasy around it within dreams, seemed a most impossible task.  Then I read the world Joy Preble created, and was lost.  From the very first meeting of Ethan and Anne, you’re hooked.   Non-stop action, mixed with a bit of romance and fantasy, Dreaming Anastasia takes you from modern-day Chicago to Tzar Nicholas’ Russia, and the world in between.
There’s a fusion of elements and genres at work here, it’s hard to categorize Dreaming Anastasia. One of the strengths of the novel is its genre-wide appeal.  I’d recommend it to adults and teens, fans of fantasy, historical romance and fiction.  My favorite part was Preble’s use of the Russian fairy tale of Baba Yaga.   Before reading Dreaming Anastasia, I wasn’t familiar with Baba Yaga, and really enjoyed the moments where Baba Yaga featured heavily.
A few bloggers’ have commented on the small amount of time focused on Anne and her family’s reactions to her brother’s death, and mention they would like to see it explored a little more. I have to disagree. I felt the scenes regarding David illustrated perfectly the grief families face, such as Anne’s mother not eating and her tired demeanor.
Joy Preble has mentioned this won’t be the last readers see of Ethan and Anne.  I, for one, can’t wait. 
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Dreaming Anastasia
Author: Joy Preble
Date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 320  
Format: Trade paperback
As part of Dreaming Anastasia‘s blog tour, I interviewed the author. You’ll find her answers below.

The story of Anastasia and the Romanovs has been the
subject of various works throughout the years – including the 1956 movie
starring Ingrid Bergman and the 1997 animated version. Are there any
depictions of the Romanovs that are a particular favorite of yours?
 

You know,
you are the first person to ask me that question! And the answer is an easy one
– I’m definitely a fan of the 1997 20
th Century Fox Animation
version by Don Bluth. It had romance and magic and Rasputin – lots of good
stuff. In fact, since you did ask, I will tell you a secret! My Happy Meal
Anastasia figure (or maybe it was from Burger King – I don’t really know at
this point!) has sat on my desk the entire time I was working on this project!
Now let me say that the
Dreaming Anastasia version of Anastasia is in no
way based on the animated film version, and in fact definitely doesn’t have the
film’s cheery outlook on things (can’t say any more or I would get all
spoilery), but I still liked the idea that some visual form of Anastasia was
watching over me as I wrote. Plus I love Meg Ryan, and I think she did
Anastasia’s voice in the film, didn’t she? And John Cusak – he was Dimitri, I
think. Love him, too! 
 

With such an intricate plot spanning centuries, and
weaving in Russian fairy tales, historical elements, and magic, Dreaming
Anastasia
appears to have required a good deal of research. How much
research and what kind did Dreaming Anastasia entail?
 

I
definitely did a lot of research. When you’re dealing with the creation of an
alternate history, you better know the real version first. So I spent a lot of
time reading about the Romanovs in books and on line at sites like www.alexanderpalace.org
, which links to numerous Russian resources, including some great primary
sources. I also studied up on Russian folk lore and fairy tales – the Baba Yaga
stories specifically, but also a variety of tales so I could get a true feel
for how the Russian folklore differed from, say, Grimm’s Brothers. I discovered
that a lot of people are fascinated with Baba Yaga – everyone from gamers to
fantasy lovers to new age feminists who embrace the “reclaiming the crone”
concept. It was actually very eye-opening to me and the more I studied, the
more I wanted to use Baba Yaga in a way that reflected a variety of those
aspects. And the magical elements really found their grounding in all of the
above, so that flowed out of everything else. It sounds like a lot of work, and
it was, but I have to say I really enjoyed it! 
 
One of Dreaming Anastasia’s themes is dreaming.
What’s the strangest dream you ever had?
 
Ooh!
Another question that no one else has thought of. (Let me say that when one is
on a 59 stop blog tour, this is actually rather remarkable, so yay!) I am one
of those people who actually does remember many, many of her dreams. I dream in
color and I am not always me when I dream, which is something that I gave to
Anne in the novel. A lot of the time when I dream, it’s like watching TV and
being one of the characters! Kind of crazy, but it certainly helps the whole
storytelling thing. Of the dreams I remember that I would choose to relate
here, I will tell you that I actually remember a dream I had when I was five
years old. I’d been sick and I had a sore throat and I dreamed that this bird
had walked into my mouth and I’d swallowed it! I woke up convinced that this
had really happened. Ick! 
 
You’re currently an English teacher, so I have to ask.
What are your top five favorite books?
 
I am such
an avid reader that that is actually a very hard question for me. It generally
depends on the year, my mood, what life is bringing my way. But if I can twist
the question a little to read “What five books do I think everyone should read
at some point?” I would say the following: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott
Fitzgerald; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; The World
According to Garp
by John Irving; Hamlet by Shakespeare (a play not
a book, but hey it’s my answer!); and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper
Lee. Those are five that have resonated with me over the years and five which I
have re-read. Although like I say, it’s just the tip of the iceberg!   
 


If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be, and why?

I love this question. I’m going to take
“children’s title” as excluding YA, which would be another answer entirely. But
right this second, I’m going to pick one that I read over and over as a little
girl and say that I’d love to live inside the world of Sydney Taylor’s All
of a Kind Family
. I loved the gentle adventures of those turn of the 20th
century sisters – buying penny candy and taking books out the library and
playing this game where the mom hid buttons for them to find while they were
doing chores like dusting. I really did want to live in that book when I was
like seven!
 
 

Visit the other stops on the tour, they’re listed below!

Class
of 2k9
(8/29)
Story Siren (8/31)
EVEREAD (9/1)
Shelf Elf (9/8)
Book Journey (9/16)
Bildungsroman (9/17)
Booking Mama (9/18)
Book Nut (9/20)
Galleysmith (9/22)
My Friend Amy (9/23; 9pm
EST author chat)
Ms. Bookish (9/24)
BookLoons.com (9/28)

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