cover image The Fool and the Fish

The Fool and the Fish

Gennady Spirin, Alexander Nikolayevi Afanasyev. Dial Books, $12.95 (25pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-0861-7

Russia is the origin of yet another traditional folktale illustrated by Spirin, though this one does not achieve the charm of The White Cat , reviewed above. Its protagonist, lazy young Ivan, is portrayed in the choppy text as a rather uneven and awkward combination of fool and hero. Ivan finds a fish that grants his wishes, and after several misadventures, he weds a princess. But because this hero doesn't overcome any hardships and isn't especially kind or good, his luck and triumph seem (in the context of traditional folktales) neither deserved nor compelling. Spirin uses light in much the way N. C. Wyeth did, bringing remarkable life to the peasants' broad, rosy faces and giving their jewel-toned clothing the illusion of tactility. Even this talented artist, however, cannot save The Fool and the Fish from a certain woodenness. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)