From Publishers Weekly
As elegant as any imperial treasure, this sumptuously illustrated book showcases Spirin's (The Sea King's Daughter; Philipok) near-magical artistry. Here he adapts three Russian fairy tales to coin his own version of the story of the tsar's son and his quest for the dazzling firebird. This prince receives aid from a big gray wolf, who helps him through a number of trials, even though the prince doesn't always follow his instructions. Their adventures take them to far-off kingdoms, to Baba Yaga's chicken-footed cottage and to the battlefield of Koshchei the Immortal. Ultimately, Ivan-Tsarevitch not only finds the firebird but also rescues and wins the hand of princess Yelena the Beautiful. The cadences are stately ("In a moment, the wolf had transformed himself into a warrior's horse so great and strong that it cannot be described, either with words or with a brush"), and the artwork is some of Spirin's most exquisite. Some of his watercolors are shaped like triptychs or altarpieces, others stretch across both pages like tapestries. The central compositions twinkle and glow as if dusted with gold leaf; twining about the text, the borders are intricately detailed but wrought in an airier, more open style that recalls the folk origins of the story. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5-Someone is stealing the Tsar's golden apples. When Ivan-Tsarevitch, the ruler's youngest son, is sent to watch, he discovers that the culprit is the magnificent firebird. Able to snatch only a single feather, he embarks on a quest to find the bird, accompanied by a faithful wolf with magical powers. In the course of the quest, he is also required to search for a horse with a golden mane, and battle Koshchei the Immortal to rescue Yelena the Beautiful. Spirin has blended versions of three different traditional Russian tales to create what the author's note refers to as an "original composition." While the writing generally flows smoothly, it sometimes veers away from the spirit of the core material, as when the evil witch Baba Yaga is interjected into the story and is inexplicably helpful to the hero, contrary to her usual persona. Spirin's illustrations are superior to the story he tells. Done in watercolor, the painterly pictures are elaborately detailed and exquisitely executed, capturing all of the magic and mystery of the long ago and far away. Of particular note are the elegant borders, which enhance the text they frame and invite readers into this magical realm. Larger libraries will probably want to purchase the book, but smaller collections already holding Demi's The Firebird (Holt, 1994; o.p.), Ruth Sanderson's The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring (Little, Brown, 2001), or Jane Yolen's The Firebird (HarperCollins, 2002) may consider this an additional acquisition.Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.