The King Who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This flat retelling of a Russian folktale may have lost something in the translation. An impoverished king marries off his three daughters to the Sun, the Moon and the Raven in return for the warmth, light and gathering skills that his prospective sons-in-law promise to provide. Not long after the princesses leave home, the king pays a visit to each newlywed couple, each time receiving gifts and special treatment from his hosts. But when the king subsequently attempts to duplicate the feats of the Sun, the Moon and the Raven for his wife back at home, he fails and is proven a fool. Ginsburg's simple sentences and chatty style set an appropriately lighthearted mood, but cannot overcome a lack of drama and a weak, abrupt denouement. Demonstrating a slightly different style here, Hillenbrand's richly hued oils offer a likable cast of egg-headed royalty and a wide range of perspectives. Unfortunately, even some inventive images--a spooky, gnarled tree; a bath house dissected by brilliant beams of moonlight--do little to elevate an unsatisfying story. Ages 5-8. (Apr . )
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Ginsburg continues the celebration of Russian folklore she began in The Twelve Clever Brothers and Other Fools (HarperCollins, 1979; o.p.). In this tale, a poor and foolish king lives in a ``tumbledown palace'' with his wife and daughters. Rather than starve to death, he makes a deal. If Sun will warm him, Moon give him light, and Raven gather grain, he will give each of them one of his daughters in marriage. The nontraditional sons-in-law all have unusual talents that the king tries to emulate-unsuccessfully, of course. Finally, after a fall from a tree, the foolish man decides that it's best to live by his own wits, however limited. Children will delight in the silly, often slapstick humor of the king's antics in this smooth and lively retelling. However, it is the illustrations that really bring the offbeat story to life. The folk-art paintings effectively combine regal blues and reds with rustic browns and yellows to create a sense of a royal fool. The characters' exaggerated proportions and flattened faces further add to the feeling of good-natured buffoonery. Libraries with a demand for funny books will want to consider this title.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Mary Harris Veeder
The first sentence of this story ("A long, long time ago, and far away, there lived a King") is fairy-tale boilerplate. The second ("This King was very poor, and he was not very clever") is not. The king makes marriages for his three beautiful daughters with the Sun, the Moon, and the Raven. When he goes to visit his children, he finds that all of them are living better than he is. From each son-in-law, the king learns a marvelous trick, but when he tries to practice the tricks for his wife, they don't work. The Sun can fry an egg on his head, but the king can't. The engaging simpleton of a monarch is more closely related to James Marshall's Stupids than to Prince Charming, and Hillenbrand's oil and oil pastel paintings, strong on golden reds, oranges, and golds, emphasize the gap. The king has patches on his sleeves, holes in his stockings, and the countenance of a cherubic Humpty-Dumpty Lenin. The humor is not directed at the king in a mean-spirited way. The monarch learns his limitations in the end, and readers--like the queen--will be happy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780027362428
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/30/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.27 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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