Saturday, January 04, 2014

Children’s Books: Two Trickster Tales From Russia by Sophie Masson, illustrated by David Allan

Some time ago, I was invited to join a crowd funding venture. Sophie Masson, author of some gorgeous young adult novels based on folk tales, had started a new venture with her friends, Christmas Press, which would publish traditional folk tales, starting with two from Russia. If we would donate towards this and for a set amount of money, we would receive a perk. In my case this perk took the form of a signed copy of the book.

My sister went to collect it for me from the post office. As soon as I had opened the parcel to reveal Two Trickster Tales From Russia (Christmas Press) and begun to drool, she asked me if she could have it for Eden, my nephew’s four-year-old son. I had waited for this book and looked forward to it’s arrival and it was every bit as gorgeous as I had expected. But I thought of my crowded shelves and remembered that it was, after all, a children’s book and Eden was about the right age to be discovering folk tales. I sighed, read it and handed it over. Really, there are too many adults collecting picture books as works of art instead of reading them with the children in their lives. And the publishers know about this and make sure there are plenty of artistic picture books aimed more at adults than children.

This isn’t one of them, though it is beautiful. The author writes for children for a living and knows what she is doing.

The style of the pictures is inspired by old Russian children’s books and I can see this, but it also reminds me of the work of Victorian-era fairy tale artist Walter Crane, who illustrated such familiar tales as Red Riding Hood. Gorgeous!

The two stories included are “Masha And The Bear” and “The Rooster With The Golden Crest.” The first reminds me of another folk tale where the girl marries the Devil and tricks him into taking her home in a sack. The second, about a truly stupid chicken, is also familiar. Both have the repetition children love, and should be fun to read with the little ones.

Read, enjoy, but make sure the child in your life does too. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at

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