A Russian Tale
adapted by & illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 12
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 Good-hearted Frol, the cruel czar's archer, defeats his master with the help of enchanted dove-maiden Frolya. Determined to rid himself of Frol and possess Frolya, the czar sends him on three impossible missions; the last is to bring back I-Know-Not-What from I-Know-Not-Where. In an excellent note, Kimmel cites Charles Downing's Russian Tales and Legends (1956) as his source; he elaborates Downing's tale of abusive power and magical redress into an eight-chapter epic, freely adding themes and symbols from other tales (golden eggs, Water of Life, a trio of giants, a flying ship, an invincible sword) to such intriguing original components as an earlier czar's punishment in the afterworld, a ferocious giant cat, Baba Yaga in a mellow mood, and the invisible servant Nobody. He even quotes Emily Dickinson (``I'm Nobody. Who are you?''). His most significant change is to move his hero into the arena of personal valor: courage alone carries Frol over the slippery bridge above the River of Fire. Kimmel also mitigates the tale's violence, though curiously--unlike Downing's--his czar, unrepentant, is killed in the end. Sauber's eight elegantly detailed and bordered paintings glow with colors ranging from deep and mysterious shades to the brash hues of Russian folk art. A creative and spirited retelling, resulting in a richly satisfying tale of high drama; for a more sophisticated audience than Diane Wolkstein's picture book version (Oom Razoom, 1991). (Folklore. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-8234-1020-X
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Holiday House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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