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

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

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Tzar's Bird by Ann Tompert

The Tzar’s Bird by Ann Tompert. Illus. by Robert Rayevsky, 1990.

Uninvited to Tzar Yaroslav’s coronation banquet, Baba Yaga shows up like a bad fairy at a princess’ christening. She brings him the gift of a Firebird, but he must make sure that it is happy and cared for at all times or Yaroslav will be sent to the Outmost Edge of the World. At first he thinks of every little detail to please it, feeding it honey cakes, playing it music and even moving in with it in its park, but eventually he begins to neglect it. Baba Yaga comes to carry the bird away, but Yaroslav will go to any length to avoid the Outmost Edge of the World. Thus, his struggle to find the Firebird begins. Can he do what he must to escape his great fear?

Rayevsky’s paintings provide fine support for Tompert’s original tale. This Baba Yaga has tusks and a huge nose, giving her a resemblance to a wild boar dressed in stately clothes. Yaroslav’s imagining of the Outmost Edge of the World is filled with red eyed, gargoyle-like creatures, in contrast to what he actually finds, which is a fruit and flower filled place. His attempts to avoid it bring him face to face with fierce looking wild creatures and through punishing deserts and mountains. Rayevsky puts the reader right there.

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