Go to book: Hedgehog’s Home | Journey Through the Hermitage | The Golden Cup | The Cuckoo | How Vasil Vanquished the Dragon | Ayoga | The Lord of the Crows | Karel Čapek Fairy Tales | Russian Fairy Tales | Robert’s Adventures and the Odyssey of Dracula’s Black Dog | Dashenka Or, The Life of a Puppy | The Little Globe-Trotting Mouse
Hedgehog’s Home, originally published in the 1950s in former Yugoslavia, remains a popular favorite today among school children in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. The story is told through multiple poems with a coupled rhyme scheme. The translator, J.D. Curtis, captures the charm and rhythm of the original story, although some of the vocabulary such as “tuck” and “doffed” are outdated and may be unfamiliar to modern audiences. This lyrical tale is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by Sanja Resček. Her bold, colorful artwork incorporates an intricate use of patterns -florals, paisley, stripes, plaid, and polka-dots - throughout the environment and character design.
Journey Through the Hermitage: Queen of the Tulips spotlights 6th grader Vanya and 4th grader Tasya as they tour through The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Vanya is a dreamer who goes to the museum after a hard day at school to escape into the artwork and crowds for a while. Tasya is an artist with a big imagination. She goes to the museum with her parents but wanders off to find interesting art to sketch. As Tasya works her way through the museum in search of a tulip to draw, she gets absorbed into the artwork, imagining herself dressed in beautiful gowns and golden wings she sees in the paintings. She gets so lost in her daydreams that she strikes up a conversation with Saskia from Rembrandt’s Flora and reaches out to touch her gown, setting off the alarm. Vanya shows up to rescue Tasya from security after noticing that they both “see things” and talk to the subjects in the artwork. The two of them set off to look at Rembrandt’s works together, getting lost in the art and learning about the history behind them together.
In this folktale from several centuries ago, it was told that a mighty Khan, or ruler, by the name of Sanad, decided that he and his subjects would make a long and arduous journey to better and richer lands. However, Sanad Khan ordered that all old people be left behind, for old people would be a burden to them on their trip, and any subject who dared to defy the Khan’s order would face severe punishment. Of all the fearful, obedient subjects, there was one young man named Tsyren who vowed he would not abandon his old father. As the Khan and his subjects traveled along, they encountered the mystique of a dazzling golden cup at the bottom of the sea, a scorching hot desert lacking life-saving water, and a wet, cold night that took away the needed campfires to stay dry and warm. Of all the subjects, made by the Khan to take turns to retrieve what was needed, none was successful or even made it out alive. That is, until Tsyren’s turn came.
In this centuries-old folktale, a poor, hardworking mother had four unruly, disobedient sons who never helped or listened to her, only made more work for her. The hard life and endless, tiring work make the mother fall ill. Yet still, none of her sons cared for her, let alone thought of her. That is, until the four sons grew hungry and went expectantly to find their mother. Their mother, as they know her, is not what they find. Instead, a lesson is learned. While the translation of this folktale reads fluently, there are instances of unusual sentence structure, but the illustrations vividly accompany the story as it unfolds.
In this Belarusian folktale dating back centuries, the title gives away the inevitable fate of the Dragon. However, the reader is introduced to just how dreadful and terrible the dragon is, wreaking constant havoc and even devouring all villagers who try, but eventually fail, to bring him enough daily tributes to satiate his hunger. The villagers, weeping at their cruel fate to the Dragon, are met one day by a visiting man named Vasil. Matter-of-factly, Vasil ensures the villagers that he will save them. The reader is then taken on a clever, mischievous journey as Vasil tries to vanquish the Dragon, whose inevitable fate does not come with the epic life-or-death battle that one would expect between a mortal man and a mighty Dragon. While the translation of this folktale reads fluently, there are moments when the sentence structure is unusual. The illustration near the end perfectly captures the Dragon’s emotion as he realizes his fate.
This brief, centuries-old fable tells the story of a little girl named Ayoga who is so absorbed by her own beauty that she spends all her time admiring herself, leaving no time for anything or anyone else, not even to help her own mother. Not only is it made apparent just how vain Ayoga really is, but also how devasting her rage and narcissistic nature can be, prompting her everlasting transformation. While the translation of this folktale reads fluently, there are moments when the sentence structure is unusual. The illustration helps to vividly show the beautiful Ayoga gazing upon herself before meeting her unfortunate fate.
“The Lord of the Crows” is an adaptation of a traditional Ukrainian folktale about a young peasant, Sasha, and his family as they try to survive on a small plot of land in the Ukrainian countryside. Their family is very poor and only has two skinny oxen to help them grow food. One day, a large black crow, known as The Lord of Crows, descends on the farm and demands a tribute. This magical tale is full of surprises and shows children how rewarding kindness can be. This short story comes from the collection 3 Folktales from Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Stories from the Ukraine, Latvia, and Turkmenistan, where the author retells some of her favorite folktales that were told by villagers from these regions. Each story is centered around the common theme of poor peasants using their wisdom and generosity “to succeed despite obstacles against an unfair ruler.”
Karel Čapek Fairy Tales is a collection of 10 Czech fairy tales written by Karel Čapek and illustrated by his brother Josef Čapek. This collection includes such stories as “A Long Tale About a Cat,” “The Tramp’s Tale,” “The Bird’s Tale,” and more! In “The Bird’s Tale,” Čapek shares with young readers a secret about how very early in the morning, while humans are still asleep, the birds talk to each other in our language. Čapek gives his readers a sneak peek into what birds talk about by sharing a morning conversation between a group of birds before they go about their day. They talk about the shortage of grains, gossip about their neighbors (like that grubby little sparrow, Percy, who tried to fly from Twickenham, London to Egypt, but only made it as far as Tunbridge Wells), and even share the legend of how birds were taught to fly!
Russian Fairy Tales is a bilingual collection, written in Russian and English, of four classic Russian fairy tales: “Masha & The Bear,” “Kolobok (Little Bun),” “Teremok (Wooden House),” and “Repka (Turnip).” Each of these heart-warming tales teaches children important life lessons, such as the importance of teamwork. The story “Turnip/Repka” is about a family that lives on a farm. The grandfather plants a turnip that grows so big that he cannot pull it out of the ground on his own!
Robert’s Adventures and the Odyssey of Dracula’s Black Dog by Romanian author Horia Hulban follows the life of Robert from childhood into adulthood as he grows from an ordinary human being into a hero with extraordinary powers. The author excels at creating memorable characters and building the dark, fantastical world that they live in. Hulban, inspired by historical documents from the Middle Ages, incorporates iconic and legendary figures such as Vlad the Impaler and the Pied Piper of Hamelin, bringing them to life in this contemporary gothic tale.
Dashenka Or, The Life of a Puppy is a classic children’s book about Karel Čapek’s hyper fox terrier puppy, Dashenka. The story follows Dashenka’s life from birth up until she is old enough to be adopted. Čapek’s humorous tale captures all of the joys of raising a puppy, like seeing them open their eyes for the first time and their clumsy attempts at walking. He also discusses in detail the difficulties of raising puppies. While he paints Dashenka as a real terror when she pees all over the house, tears apart slippers, and digs giant holes in the garden, his writing still conveys how much he loves Dashenka despite all of her naughty behavior.