cover image The Little Humpbacked Horse: A Russian Tale

The Little Humpbacked Horse: A Russian Tale

Elizabeth Winthrop. Clarion Books, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-65361-6

Winthrop and Koshkin (Vasilissa the Beautiful) import another Russian folktale to superb effect. Winthrop retains the traditional feel of the story while using a pace and vernacular (""snuck,"" for example) comfortable to modern readers. Koshkin's densely patterned and intensely colored watercolor, tempera and gouache paintings achieve a fresh yet classic Russian folktale ambiance. When a peasant's unpromising youngest son, Ivan, frees a golden-maned mare, it rewards him with two handsome stallions and a little humpbacked horse-the real treasure. The little horse guides the guileless Ivan through the seemingly impossible tasks set him by the Tsar. Although Ivan lacks the cleverness of his ruthless brothers and the scheming courtiers, it is he who succeeds the Tsar and marries the beautiful princess. Koshkin's closely cropped paintings have a lavishly decorative quality, but also convey the affection between Ivan and his horse and the cold pettiness of the courtiers. This homely, misshapen little horse is capable of taking readers for quite a ride. Ages 6-10. (Mar.)