"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Friday, March 4, 2011

They grow them big in Russia: Enormous Vegetables

My next official foray into children’s picture books about Russian folktales involves one tale with many different artistic interpretations: “The Turnip.” This story involves an enormous vegetable and a group of family and friends joining together to uproot it for a meal. It usually begins with the strongest individual unable to pull it up, then getting help from another one and another, until the addition of the smallest creature makes the difference.

Gigantic Turnip, The (Tell Me a Story) (Hardcover with CD) (Book & CD)Gigantic Turnip, The (Tell Me a Story) (Hardcover with CD) (Book & CD)

 My favorite version of the tale is The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey, 1999. I think both the text and the illustrations are outstanding. Here the old man and the old woman have six yellow canaries, five white geese, four speckled hens, three black cats, two potbellied pigs and one big brown cow, and they all “heaved and tugged and yanked, but the turnip would not move” until a little mouse joins in. The numerous animals and repetition make a fun storytime book.

The playful art enhances the tale. This is a giant turnip indeed, and the cover shows the round old couple sitting comfortably on top of it, with plenty of room to spare. This is a jolly world of rounded hills studded with waving grass and flowers, clotheslines hung with stripey nightclothes and acrobatic animals forming chains and pyramids. A winner.

Some others are:

The TurnipThe Turnip illustrated by Pierr Morgan, 1990. Story from Once On a Time, 1938.

The Enormous Turnip The Enormous Turnip by Kathy Parkinson, 1986.

Team turnip in this retelling is composed of Grandfather Ivan, Grandmother Luba, Mother Natasha, Daughter Olga, Alyosha the puppy, Anya the orange tiger kitten and Manya the mouse. But it is the last minute addition of Petya the beetle that wrests the stubborn vegetable from the ground. The proceedings are watched by an increasing number of curious brown rabbits. Illustrations of the turnip feast, with pets at the table, a large Petya getting his share of the mash and of everyone settling in to bed afterward add to the charm of this version .

A Little Story About a Big TurnipA Little Story About a Big Turnip Retold by Tatiana Zunshine, Illus by Evgeny Antonekov. 2003.
 It is described on the flap as a “traditional Russian folktale presented in a non-traditional way.”

A variation:

The Enormous Carrot McGraw-Hill Reading Kindergarten Level big bookThe Enormous Carrot McGraw-Hill Reading Kindergarten Level big book by  Vladimir Vagin, 1998.
Rabbits grow the freakishly large veggie in question, with a mousie providing the final muscle. Watercolor and pencil illustrations.

Other versions that I haven't seen:

Grandma Lena's Big Ol' Turnip (Albert Whitman Prairie Books)Grandma Lena's Big Ol' Turnip (Albert Whitman Prairie Books)

The Great Big Enormous Turnip (Picture Mammoth)The Great Big Enormous Turnip (Picture Mammoth)

The Enormous TurnipThe Enormous Turnip

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