cover image The King Who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head

The King Who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head

Mirra Ginsburg. MacMillan Publishing Company, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-736242-8

This flat retelling of a Russian folktale may have lost something in the translation. An impoverished king marries off his three daughters to the Sun, the Moon and the Raven in return for the warmth, light and gathering skills that his prospective sons-in-law promise to provide. Not long after the princesses leave home, the king pays a visit to each newlywed couple, each time receiving gifts and special treatment from his hosts. But when the king subsequently attempts to duplicate the feats of the Sun, the Moon and the Raven for his wife back at home, he fails and is proven a fool. Ginsburg's simple sentences and chatty style set an appropriately lighthearted mood, but cannot overcome a lack of drama and a weak, abrupt denouement. Demonstrating a slightly different style here, Hillenbrand's richly hued oils offer a likable cast of egg-headed royalty and a wide range of perspectives. Unfortunately, even some inventive images--a spooky, gnarled tree; a bath house dissected by brilliant beams of moonlight--do little to elevate an unsatisfying story. Ages 5-8. (Apr . )