Bearhead: A Russian Folktale

Eric A. Kimmel, Author, Charles Mikolaycak, Illustrator Holiday House $16.95 (1p) ISBN 978-0-8234-0902-0

In his retelling of a Russian fairy tale, Kimmel has reversed the hero's physical parts: he now has the body of a man and the head of a bear. Taken in by kindly peasants in his infancy, Bearhead becomes devoted to his protectors. Thus, when evil Madame Hexaba summons Bearhead's father to be her servant, Bearhead himself takes on the job. He follows his orders literally, however, thus proving a menace to Hexaba's house--when Hexaba tells him to clear away the table, for instance, he tosses it out the window. Sent on a supposedly deadly mission by the aggrieved Hexaba, the wily Bearhead outwits a dangerous adversary and, in a neat twist, accidentally wins riches for his parents. Text and art complement each other nicely, setting the tale in a rather modern time frame. Bearhead's new form is not quite as logical here as in the original, however, as his human body would probably not manage the feats of a bear, and his bear's head and face are not quite as expressive as a human's would be. Still, this is a satisfying tale, and children will delight in the winning hero's literal interpretations of orders. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)