THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS

In this sketchy but elegantly appointed version of a Russian folktale, one brother gets further with kindness than another does by being clever. As a reward for rescuing a baby bird, Ivan is taught bird language—an ability that not only repeatedly allows him to save his reckless, quick-tongued brother, Vasili, from disaster, but ultimately wins him the czar’s daughter. Framed in black, with running borders of delicately drawn feathers or bird tracks, Gaber’s acrylics, multilayered and thinly applied over a golden undercoat, have an appropriately rich, exotic look, and the different personalities of the brothers are clear to see. Readers may wonder why Vasili never shows a trace of ill feeling at having his fat snatched from the fire so much by Ivan, and how their father, fulfilling a prophecy, comes to be the ragged, unrecognized beggar who shows up near the end—but Ivan’s dreamy gentleness sets a pleasant tone, and the tale’s point is made without sermonizing. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-22925-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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CINDERELLA

PLB 0-7358-1052-4 Cinderella (32 pp.; $15.95, PLB $15.88; Apr.; 0-7358-1051-6, PLB 0-7358-1052-4): Perrault’s ancient tale of Cinderella has been slimmed and toned down considerably, with her virtues less evident and the supporting cast less effective. Readers will wonder why Cinderella’s father, who is not conveniently dead in this story, doesn’t rally to her aid, but they will be otherwise enchanted by Koopmans’s delicate illustrations. One good French touch comes at dinner; the prince is so besotted that “even when the most delicious dishes were served for supper, he could not eat a morsel.” (Picture book/folklore. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7358-1051-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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IN THE RAINFIELD

WHO IS THE GREATEST?

A Nigerian folktale becomes especially appealing through Olaleye’s onomatopoetic wordplay and Grifalconi’s clever use of marbling to convey the essence of the elements—wind, fire, and rain. After failing to resolve their argument over who is the greatest, Wind, Fire, and Rain agree to battle on the rainfield to see who will be the last standing. Wind puts on quite a display, until Fire turns the world into a firestorm rushing in all directions. Wind’s blowing only makes Fire “bigger and stronger!” It falls to Rain to pour water on Fire’s parade and claim the prize: “The gentlest is the greatest.” Olaleye’s text has a lovely musicality about it, and Grifalconi’s collages swirl with life and color. Exquisite. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-48363-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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