Picks and Pans Review: Anastasia's Album

updated 11/04/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Hugh Brewster

New regimes may rise and fall in the former Soviet Union, but our fascination with the last days of the Czar is apparently eternal. Anastasia 's Album, a photo scrapbook with drawings and text about the youngest Romanov princess, aims to enchant a new generation of young readers (and their parents) with the romantic details of this tragic story: The charismatic monk Rasputin, who' gained the royal family's confidence by claiming to heal the hemophiliac Crown Prince Alexei; the midnight massacre of the Czar, Czarina and their children by Bolshevik guards in the palace where they were hidden after the revolution dethroned them; the rumors that Anastasia might have survived the bloodbath.

The vintage photographs from the imperial family's albums in the State Archives in Moscow are haunting, mysterious and stunning. Here are the four breathtaking princesses in pearls and gossamer white dresses, or with their lovely heads shaved after a measles outbreak; here, the Czar's family vacation at the beach or on their yacht in the Baltic. The passages from Anastasia's letters are touchingly innocent.

But in its attempt to capture an audience of all ages, Hugh Brewster's simply worded text offers an absurdly facile summary of the 1917 Russian Revolution and an almost comical end run around the grislier aspects of Anastasia's story. Still, publication of the photos and letters offers a new occasion to acquaint our children with the fairy-tale-like historical characters who continue to resonate—and move us—even today. (Hyperion Madison Press, $17.95)

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