cover image Stupid Emilien

Stupid Emilien

S. T. Mendelson. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-55670-213-6

In this stylish version of a Russian fairy tale, a wise rabbit demonstrates that wealth and power are not necessarily the keys to the good life. Nicknamed ``Stupid'' by his brothers, Emilien prefers sitting on the stove in winter and the roof in summer to seeking his fortune. It seems he possesses magic powers that help and amaze his friends and worry the jealous czar. When the monarch attempts to dispose of the ``rude peasant,'' Emilien's tricks not only save his skin, but win him the hand of the czarevna. In his debut, Mendelson's retelling is serviceable, though the tone occasionally falls flat. However, this minor shortcoming is overshadowed by the lush illustrations. A rich palette of predominantly deep reds and blues depicts a czarist Russia ``peopled'' entirely by white rabbits. This witty choice of character, combined with meticulous period details, produces bunny icons, black-booted bunny palace guards and cossack dancers, and rabbits donning luxurious robes and brilliant crown jewels. The effect is regal elegance infused with a touch of whimsy. Youngest readers will be amused by Emilien's hijinks, but readers of any age will enjoy this fantastical outing. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)