The King of Birds

Alexander Utkin. Nobrow, $16.95 (72p) ISBN 978-1-910620-38-0

Gamayun, a human-faced bird from Slavic mythology who tells stories, greets readers in this intriguing graphic-novel rendering of Russian folktales. Like Russian nesting dolls, each tale is born from the previous one, and they often cross back into other stories later on. What starts as an attempt to steal an apple of eternal youth from the garden of a warrior princess leads to a war between the mammals and birds. After winning, the King of Birds struggles to survive and is saved by the kindness of a merchant. The king is indebted to the human, whom he flies to faraway lands and awards him a treasure that he is not allowed to open. Utkin’s work is mesmerizing and haunting both visually and narratively, his striking characters wavering between majestic and malevolent. Though much of the story occurs in the wild, Utkin switches up earthy hues for bright backgrounds and beings that cover the range of colors—notably shades of bright blue and gold. Readers will find themselves easily seduced by Utkin’s artwork and storytelling. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
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