cover image I-Know-Not-What, I-Know-Not-Where: A Russian Tale

I-Know-Not-What, I-Know-Not-Where: A Russian Tale

Eric A. Kimmel. Holiday House, $16.95 (63pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1020-0

In folktales, simple acts of kindness can have enormous consequences. Here, in a fairy tale told in eight chapters, Frol, a humble archer, spares a white dove, and is rewarded with ``the most wonderful story,'' its wondrous characters including a beautiful princess with magic powers, turned into a bird by an evil wizard's spell; a dead czar in a fiery pit; and a giant cat as big as a mountain. The miracle of the dove raconteuse is only the beginning, for bird and archer must then contend with a cruel and paranoid czar and his chief minister. They see Frol as a threat and Frolya the dove only as a desirable marvel. To eliminate Frol, they send him on impossible quests, sealing their own doom, for he thus enacts Frolya's prophetic tale, releases her from the curse and overthrows them. Kimmel (see The Three Princes , above) spins a complex, substantial tale with a peasant's acidic perspective on unjust rulers (most notably when Frol meets the dead czar); Diane Wolkstein's agreeable adaptation of the same story, Oom Razoom , is by comparison a lighthearted fantasy. Sauber ( Gray Fox ) provides suitable if skimpy accompaniment, contributing to each chapter one richly colored illustration decorated with Russian folk motifs. Ages 6-10. (Mar.)