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Knot in the Tracks

Knot in the Tracks

by Piumini

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Petrushka, a diligent worker on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, leads a satisfactory, if solitary, existence dedicated to the maintenance of his beloved tracks, so that the weekly train can safely pass. When the blue, belly-scratching demon Rashka--perhaps the unkempt old uncle of Disney's genie--makes it his mission to mangle the rails, Petrushka is doomed to carry out the ogre's every demand. Fedorov, a Russian illustrator making his American debut, conjures up ethereal, desolate landscapes and peppers them with folksy accents: ducks glide into the twilight, lizards slither over the tracks, crows rest on the carcass of a mountain goat. Piumini ( The Saint and the Circus ) similarly builds atmosphere with evocative details; for example, Rashka first demands ``a good hot tea of orange and mint leaves'' (which ``only grow beyond the mountains in the south'') and then wants ``a hundred red pebbles from the mountains in the north.'' The translation occasionally lacks grace, but the mood established by Fedorov and Piumini is solid--a careful mix of the eerie and the exotic secured in a classic folktale format. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Petrushka is a man who lives all alone in a desolate part of Siberia. His job is to make certain the tracks for the Trans-Siberian railroad remain in good shape for the train that passes by once a week. His placid life is suddenly turned inside-out by an odd-looking demon who ties the tracks into a knot. Rashka will only untie them if Petrushka makes him tea from far-away orange and mint leaves. Not long after the man accomplishes this difficult task, Rashka sets him another. Ultimately, the demon's greed leads to his demise-he is hit by the eastbound train and ``smashed into a thousand pieces.'' The story borders on the bizarre, and Holmes's choppy translation and Fedorov's dark illustrations do little to make it more accessible. The full-page paintings appear to be done in a combination of watercolor and thin acrylic washes. The artist's style is semi-naive, especially in the doll-like depiction of the characters. The paintings are full of a variety of textures created by paint, paper, and repeated patterns. As a result, the work is visually interesting, but the relationship between text and illustrations never jells.-Denise Anton Wright, Illinois State University, Normal
Carolyn Phelan
Translated from the Italian, this book tells the story of Petrushka, a railway workman plagued by a demon named Rashka. The wicked and capricious Rashka insists that Petrushka perform all sorts of outlandish deeds before the demon will untie the rails that he has knotted up. Petrushka performs ably, allowing Rashka to be undone by his own greed and wickedness. As in a folktale, the text is crisp and direct, virtue is rewarded, and evil is punished, though here a train becomes the engine of fate. Moscow artist Fedorov's paintings range from pastoral scenes of delicacy and mysterious beauty to charming domestic interiors to comical character studies of the demon. An entertaining, original story with a satisfying conclusion.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

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