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

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Magic Nesting Doll

The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Illus. by Laurel Long, 2000.

Here is another original tale involving a Russian nesting doll. Katya’s grandmother dies, bequeathing her a little matryoshka to use when she has great need. Out in the world, Katya learns that the Tsarevitch has been turned into a man of living ice, and that spring has transformed into winter without thaw, night is without moon, and dark has no dawn. Determined to help break the enchantment, Katya speaks to the Grand Vizier, little knowing that he is behind the evil magic that holds the handsome Tsarevitch captive. The Grand Vizier has Katya thrown into the dungeon for her presumption, and so she turns to her matryoshka for help. Each doll is an animal who knows just what to do to break a portion of the spell. As the Tsarevitch strengthens, so the Grand Vizier weakens, and finally Katya figures out what to do to save her prince and defeat his wicked uncle the Grand Vizier.

Long’s superb illustrations are inspired by Russian folk art and stories, and they often remind one of lacquer box art and medieval tapestries. The title page is reminiscent of a traditional fairy tale box, showing Katya posed with her matryoshka. She is surrounded by her animal helpers the bear, wolf and Firebird against a black background wreathed by a floral border. Other fantastic spreads show Katya interacting with her enchanted animals. In a picture packed with contrasting textures and simple jewel colors, Katya rides her shaggy brown bear, her flowered scarf blowing out behind her. Next, she sits astride her howling wolf, flying over a carpet of flowers. At last, she converses with the Firebird on the edge of a cliff, under a brilliant full moon. Each would fit together beautifully in a series of wall tapestries. Long’s characters’ faces glow as if lit from within. Highly recommended.

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