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

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vasily and the Dragon by Simon Stern

Vasily & the Dragon by Simon Stern, 1982.

It’s true that young Vasily the Unlucky has an enemy in Marko the Rich. Before he is born, the Lord God proclaims that he will grow up to possess all of Marko’s money. Marko is a greedy man and this is unwelcome news, so he contrives to kill Vasily. He heartlessly attempts murder three times and is unsuccessful, managing only to unintentionally marry Vasily to his compassionate daughter. Then he hits upon a plan to send his son in law to question the Heathen Dragon. Will he be rid of Vasily once and for all? This tale was adapted from Marko the Rich, collected by D.N. Sadodnikov.

Stern’s art is a treat because the pictures have so many interesting surprise details. Marko’s home contains a life-size (taxidermied?) bear that holds gloves and canes. A stylized, grumpy looking pug dog attends Vasily’s wedding. A table in the dragon’s cave stands on one human foot as two hands support its top decorated by a skull with flowers growing out of its eye sockets. Stern does well with contrasts of light and shadow, and smooth and jagged textures. He shows the wicked Marko asleep in his darkened chamber, his face illuminated by the full moon outside his window. Vasily meets some beggars in a dark forest tunnel choked with twisted roots and foliage dripping branches, made more drear against the bright yellow sky beyond. I hope to add this book to my collection.

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