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THE FIREBIRD by Jane Yolen


by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Vladimir Vagin

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: May 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-028538-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

The Firebird is a character in several Russian folktales as well as the title character in the famous ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Stravinsky. Yolen (Wild Wings: Poems for Young People, p. 349, etc.) combines these intertwined story strands to create a dual story of the folktale and the ballet. The design uses the folktale text and accompanying illustrations in the upper three-quarters of the pages, with a narrower segment of illustrations across the bottom quarter showing illustrations of the related story from the ballet. Prince Ivan is the hero of the tale, and with the help of the Firebird, he kills Kostchei the Deathless, also called the wizard of darkness, and his demons (scary black creatures with horns, tails, and cloven hooves). Kostchei is a fearsome fellow himself, with red eyes, pointed teeth, and nine-inch nails, and his death frees ten beautiful maidens and handsome young men from an evil spell so they can dance in joy and live happily ever after, of course. Yolen’s tale is, as always, professionally and smoothly told, with the polished cadences of an authentic folktale. Highly detailed illustrations capture the Firebird’s vibrant feathers, the ornate Russian costumes, and the fearful appearances of the wizard and demons. The double set of illustrations is somewhat detrimental to the folk tale, but will serve well as an introduction to the ballet. (Folktale. 5-8)