Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Emotionally authentic prose and jewel-like illustrations that emulate pre-Raphaelite texture and ornament make this retelling of a Russian folktale an exquisite volume. In the medieval city of Novgorod the Great, Sadko, a poor musician, longs for love as he sits by the River Volkhov and plucks his 12-string gusli. His music wins him the favor of the Sea King, who invites him to visit his palace under the sea. In pale watercolors sparked with lustrous gold, the royal attendantsincluding mermaids, lobsters in metal armor and crabs in puffed Elizabethan-style sleevesfloat across a double-page full-bleed spread or a vignette panel in spiraling curves. Spirin (Kashtanka) renders them with a mistiness that creates the sensation of opening one's eyes under water. The king insists Sadko marry his daughter Volkhova, the nymph of the river the musician loves. When Sadko learns that kissing her would separate him from his beloved homeland forever, he reluctantly forsakes Volkhova's affections and returns from whence he came. "He wept," writes Shephard (The Baker's Dozen), "perhaps for joy, perhaps for sadness at his loss, perhaps for both." A short afterword gives a history on Russian legends, but no facts can detract from the mood of eloquent enchantment created here. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The dark cover, which features a beautiful and richly adorned maiden floating among the lily blossoms, is intriguing. The young musician Sadko's beautiful music reaches the ears of the King of the Sea, which leads to an underwater adventure and betrothal to a water nymph. Warned that embracing her will keep him forever in the underwater kingdom, Sadko must make a choice to stay or return to his beloved city, Novgorod. The stunning and richly detailed watercolors by Spirin depict the period clothing and homes of the wealthy Russians as well as the fantasy world of the Sea King. A satisfying story, beautifully illustrated.
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Almost as enthralling as wee folk are those who dwell in realms we can only imagine. Aaron Shepard retells an old Russian legend about a musician summoned to an undersea kingdom, there to wed one of the ruler's beautiful girls. The catch, though, is that the man can never return to his beloved city. Lush language and Gennady Spirin's intricate watercolors make The Sea King's Daughter a feast for ear and eye.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-6--A poor but gifted musician draws the attention of the King of the Sea, who invites him to visit his palace under the sea. The ruler then becomes so taken with the young man's music that he insists Sadko stay and marry one of his daughters. The Sea Queen, however, whispers to Sadko that if he kisses or embraces his sea-wife, he will never be able to return home again. That evening he lies next to his bride, the Princess Volkhova, but never touches her. The next morning he awakes beside the River Volkhov in his beloved city of Novgorod. He becomes a rich merchant, marries, and raises a family, but whenever he plays his music near the river, he thinks he sees the Princess Volkhova raising her head out of the water to listen. This retelling retains the flavor of Old Russia. Shepard includes detailed notes about the story, his sources, and a brief pronunciation guide. Spirin's full-page watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations are lavish, highly decorative, and somewhat formal in their execution. Done in a palette of sepia-toned browns, reds, and blues, the pictures are highly stylized and reminiscent of a late 19th-century illustrative style. The depiction of the Sea King's family is interesting; while some of the undersea creatures are depicted as mermaids, the Sea King and his family wear traditional Russian dress and have legs and feet. Overall, this is a fascinating spin on mermaid/human interaction and should appeal to an older picture-book audience.--Denise Anton Wright, Illinois State University, Normal