cover image The Tale of Tsar Saltan

The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2001-5

Though born into different centuries, these two prodigious Russian talents cast the same spell over their audience. Pushkin's fairy tale gleams with magic and wonder, and Spirin (The Frog Princess) mirrors his countryman's sensibility, his enchanted watercolors once again displaying the breathtaking delicacy of spun gold. The story is one of betrayal by two jealous sisters whose younger sister marries Tsar Saltan. They hatch a scheme to drown the tsarina and her son; unbeknownst to the sisters (and the tsar), mother and son are aided by a magical swan, who eventually helps reunite the royal family and--transformed into a beautiful princess--marries the tsarevitch. Spirin's intricate illustrations resonate with splendor and joyful pride in the Russian aesthetic heritage. He lovingly details rich brocades and chains of mail; he borders the text with arc-shaped panels above and elegant decorations below. Under Spirin's guidance, the story, superb on its own, simply soars. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)