cover image The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring

The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring

Ruth Sanderson. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-76906-8

Sanderson (The Crystal Mountain) draws from several Russian fairy tales to fashion a clever story about a well-intentioned young horseman, his magical mare and a greedy czar. The sumptuous oil paintings take immediate command of the double-page spreads, the sometimes breathtaking scenes distinguished by lustrous hues and intricate particulars. On a quest to seek his fortune ""and perhaps to find an adventure or two as well,"" Alexi encounters a magnificent mare who pledges to serve the lad if he spares her life. The horse leads her new master to the palace of the czar, who hires Alexi as his horseman, yet is bitter that he cannot claim Alexi's imposing horse as his own. Disgruntled, the czar demands of the lad seemingly impossible tasks, among them capturing the elusive firebird and fetching a maiden from ""a distant eastern land"" to be the ruler's bride. The wise equine is the true hero of the story, valiantly coming to Alexi's rescue in each episode end eventually bringing about the not unexpected happy-ever-after d nouement. Sanderson's narrative has a lush, lyrical quality, and her renderings of lavish architectural detail, elaborate period dress and an unsullied natural world will bring youngsters back for repeat readings. Her dramatically lit firebird is nothing short of resplendent. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)