HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED? by Leo Tolstoy

HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED?

by & illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 8
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A man’s greed leads to his downfall in this adaptation of an 1886 short story. Pakhom is a peasant whose wife is happy with life but who himself has an insatiable desire for more and more land. He follows rumors and stories from place to place, enlarging his holdings each time, until he hears that the Bashkirs are practically giving away huge tracts of land. He investigates, to find that for 1,000 rubles, he can claim as much land as he can walk around in a day. Greed keeps him walking until sundown, when he finally reaches his starting point—and falls down dead. It is a sudden end to what has until that point been a fairly sprightly tale about greed and contentment along the lines of the many variants on “The Fisherman and His Wife.” The final illustration depicts Pakhom ascending with a host of angels, but it is doubtful that this will do much to soften the text: “Pakhom’s servant . . . dug his master a grave—just as long and as wide as Pakhom’s body where it lay upon the earth.” As an adaptation, the story cuts much from the original that lends it psychological and political depth, notably the involvement of the Devil in Pakhom’s lust for land and Pakhom’s relationships with various local Communes and landlords. Kiev-based Abesinova’s illustrations are humorous and highly detailed, cramming every possible element into richly colored, flat tableaux. Although they are entirely pleasing of themselves, they do little to extend the story of a man who is so driven to own land that he literally walks himself to death. For more psychologically satisfying treatments of the same theme, stick to the aforementioned folktales. There are no translation/abridgment/adaptation credits; however, a biographical note on Tolstoy follows the text. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-56656-407-7
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001