The Language of Birds

The Language of Birds

by Rafe Martin, Susan Gaber
     
 
Ivan and Vasilli are as different as brothers can be. When their father sends them out to prove themselves in the wide world, Vasilli is only out for himself, while Ivan approaches the future with a generous heart. When a thoughtful gesture saves the life of a baby bird, Ivan is granted a wish from the bird's mother—he is able to understand the language of birds

Overview

Ivan and Vasilli are as different as brothers can be. When their father sends them out to prove themselves in the wide world, Vasilli is only out for himself, while Ivan approaches the future with a generous heart. When a thoughtful gesture saves the life of a baby bird, Ivan is granted a wish from the bird's mother—he is able to understand the language of birds. Vasilli mocks this humble gift even when he's warned of danger and his bullheadedness lands him in a dungeon. But Ivan comes to his rescue, freeing Vasilli and greatly impressing a princess at the same time.

Susan Gaber's glowing illustrations enhance and expand this captivating retelling of a Russian fairy tale from acclaimed story-teller Rafe Martin.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
In the land beyond nine oceans, a wealthy merchant gives each of his two sons ten gold coins so that they can demonstrate their worth and skills. Vasilii squanders his money on pleasure and entertainment while Ivan whi is a dreamer who thirsts for knowledge. Ivan uses his money to understand the secret language of birds. Vasilii's arrogance nearly gets him beheaded, but Ivan's wisdom gains him unmeasured wealth and the hand of a beautiful princess. Based on a Russian folktale, but incorporating legends from many different cultures, this story is enhanced by lively and mystical watercolors. 2000, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Ages 7 to 10, $15.99. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-A strong text underscores this picture-book retelling of a traditional Russian folktale. Vasilii and Ivan are opposites in personality and temperament. When sent out into the world by their merchant father, Vasilii seeks riches and power while his brother strives to understand the language of birds. Ivan's skill at understanding what a trio of crows is saying eventually wins him the hand of a princess and half a czar's kingdom. Martin does an excellent job of creating a text that is both evocative and descriptive. He credits Russian Wonder Tales (Century Co., 1912) by Post Wheeler as his source for this folktale. The accompanying full- and double-page illustrations are accomplished but lack the consistency and strength of Martin's text. Using acrylic paints on a multi-ply paper, Gaber utilizes a fairly dark palette of blues and violets highlighted by various shades of red and orange. By using an extreme perspective and dramatic contrasts between near and far, the pictures are often quite powerful. Unfortunately, they lack a consistent artistic style; several are clearly influenced by traditional Russian painting, others by Japanese prints, and still others by the Italian Renaissance. The most satisfying aspects of the illustrations are the borders created from stylized bird tracks, profiles of birds, and feathers. With its positive depiction of humans working with nature, this title should have uses beyond most picture-book adaptations of Russian folklore.-Denise Anton Wright, Alliance Library System, Bloomington, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
In this sketchy but elegantly appointed version of a Russian folktale, one brother gets further with kindness than another does by being clever. As a reward for rescuing a baby bird, Ivan is taught bird language—an ability that not only repeatedly allows him to save his reckless, quick-tongued brother, Vasili, from disaster, but ultimately wins him the czar's daughter. Framed in black, with running borders of delicately drawn feathers or bird tracks, Gaber's acrylics, multilayered and thinly applied over a golden undercoat, have an appropriately rich, exotic look, and the different personalities of the brothers are clear to see. Readers may wonder why Vasili never shows a trace of ill feeling at having his fat snatched from the fire so much by Ivan, and how their father, fulfilling a prophecy, comes to be the ragged, unrecognized beggar who shows up near the end—but Ivan's dreamy gentleness sets a pleasant tone, and the tale's point is made without sermonizing. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399229251
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/28/2000
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.94(w) x 11.38(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD410L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 10 Years

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