From School Library Journal
Gr 1-3–Large and lavish, this handsome presentation builds nicely on European folktale elements to tell of King Vaslav's youngest son winning the heart of the princess, half the kingdom, and ownership of the fabulous bird. Though the book cover invites readers to “celebrate 100 years of the world-famous Russian ballet,” the story is quite different from that of the ballet's hapless archer. In an endnote, Pirotta comments broadly on the varied appearances of the bird of fire in world folklore, but never acknowledges the sources from which he has drawn them. His adroit telling suggests Russian origins. The three princes–Dimitri, Vasili, and Ivan–try in turn to capture the fiery intruder that comes at night to feed on the golden-skinned apples in the king's orchard. The traditional pattern of three continues, and Ivan is aided by a magical Gray Wolf in the rounds of his quest. Hyde's acrylic paintings are soft in focus and deep with luminous portrayals of the featured animals and dusky views of the nighttime and woodland journeys. The book's expansive layout nicely varies the use of white space and painting size. Earlier picture-book renderings and those in collections seem to vary considerably in telling this tale. The misleading plug for the ballet aside, this one is well constructed with a satisfying fairy-tale mix of human frailty and greed, magical intervention, and just deserts–a welcome choice for storytelling and reading aloud.Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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About the Author
Saviour Pirotta is a playwright as well as an award-winning author of nearly a hundred books for children, including CHILDREN'S STORIES FROM THE BIBLE. Originally from Malta, he now lives in England.
Catherine Hyde studied fine art in London and has since become a successful artist, her work having been featured in numerous exhibitions. She illustrated THE PRINCESS'S BLANKETS by Carol Ann Duffy. She lives with her husband and daughters in Cornwall, England.