cover image Vassilisa the Wise: A Tale of Medieval Russia

Vassilisa the Wise: A Tale of Medieval Russia

Josepha Sherman. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-293240-4

Stately watercolors, rich in costume and architectural detail, provide elegant tableaux for this tale from 12th century Russia. The story turns on the ability of the beautiful, clever Vassilisa to free her husband from Prince Vladimir's dungeon, where he has been cast because of intemperate boasting that has angered the prince. Knowing she has only her wits to rely on, Vassilisa masquerades as a feared Tartar nobleman. In this guise, she bests the prince at several contests of his own choosing and exacts as payment the release of her husbanda modest price that Vladimir is by then only too happy to pay. This is an intriguing tale of courage and resourcefulness; it is particularly welcome for its depiction of a strong female character and for its emphasis on skill and ingenuity rather than beauty. Ages 5-8. (April)