cover image Sorotchintzy Fair

Sorotchintzy Fair

Nikolai Vasil'evich Gogol. David R. Godine Publisher, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-879-7

With this tale by Gogol, Soviet artist Spirin ( Once There Was a Tree ; The White Cat ) turns his masterful eye on swarming scenes of Russian peasants carousing at a summer fair. Broad-faced, ruddy country folk spring to life in these beautifully designed pages, and the holiday finery, rendered in glowing, jewel tones, is fit for a king. Even farm animals are endowed with personality and expression. In crowd scenes and in the play of light and shadow on his characters' faces and forms, Spirin's work here is reminiscent of Brueghel's. The tale itself almost equals the artist's vision but becomes somewhat bogged down in the middle: a girl finds true love at the fair, but her hopes are nearly dashed by her mean-spirited stepmother. Luckily, the girl's suitor is clever, her father is a little addled and the fair is a place where anything--including an appearance by the devil himself--is possible. By the book's ``happily-ever-after'' ending, readers will be eager to turn back to its grand title page and start all over again. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)