THE BLACK HEN by Antony Pogorelsky


or The Underground Inhabitants
by & adapted by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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 Written in 1829 and cited by Tolstoy as a childhood favorite, a complex tale with an intriguing mix of period setting and still-resonant message. Alyosha spends lonely weekends at school while his classmates go home; it's then that he saves a hen from the cook. That night, the hen takes him to an underground kingdom of half-sized folk, where she assumes the form of the king's minister. Though Alyosha has failed, in true fairy-tale fashion, to follow all the minister/hen's instructions (with pleasingly dramatic results), since he has saved his/her life he's rewarded with a magic seed that allows him to recite lessons without studying; but this, alas, is not a good influence on him. Then he loses the seed, is punished for his sudden inexplicable lack of proficiency, and reforms--but not without an unavoidable betrayal of his underground friends, who are forced to move away. Be they political, aesthetic, or magical, it's hard to serve two masters. In essentially realistic paintings, the Russian-born Yuditskaya subtly differentiates between a more crisply delineated real world and the luminous, freely rendered fantastical one. An unusual story with real substance. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-65133-0
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994


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