• Hardcover: 32 pages

  • Publisher: Philomel; First Edition (March 31, 1994)

  • ISBN-13: 978-0399219726

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship

by Christopher Denise

"In a stunning picture book debut, Denise dresses up the familiar Russian folktale with a cast of small woodland creatures, each cunningly cuddly in period costume and each craftily selected to reflect the character trait needed to drive the plot. The story, about a "fool" who determines to build a flying ship and thus win the hand of the Tsar's daughter, is little changed from the version in the 1874 Skazki of Polevoi ; Denise's dramatic, large-scale acrylic paintings are the real news here. Light dapples the forest over which the galleon soars; shadows cast a somber mood in the Tsar's opulent palace. Illustrations sometimes happily spill into the margins, for example, staircase arches out of the picture frame in a view of the palace interior. Elsewhere, Denise creates a sense of infinitely expanding horizons, as in the final sumptuous scene of a wedding, wherein motifs on palace archways begin to repeat the story until they fade into the distance. Throughout, small character portraits punctuate blocks of text, generously endowing the book with a series of visual delights." -Publishers Weekly

"A scrupulous note explains that, with 'minimal' editing, this is the great Russian collector Afanasev's version, crafted by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi (1839-1902), a well-known historian, archaeologist, and Shakespearean scholar.' In outline, it differs little from Arthur Ransome's text as used in Uri Shulevitz's Caldecott winner (1968); but where Ransome is more literary and humorous, the more straightforward text here is propelled by its energetic cadence. And where Shulevitz's spacious illustrations are deceptively informal, Denise's landscape paintings are elegant, rather dark, and mysterious--and he adds a delightful touch of whimsy by using animal characters. Most of these are mice, while the species of the Fool's magical helpers reflect their exaggerated attributes: the 'Listening One,' ear to earth, is a mole; ``Swift-of-foot'' is a hare; and so on. Some of these escape the more formal art to enliven the text. A handsome edition, with especially felicitous typography and design. (Folklore/Picture book. 5-10)"-Kirkus Reviews