K-Gr 4-A father sets his three sons three tasks to determine which one should inherit the family farm: to bring back "the most beautiful wedding kerchief," wedding dress, and bride. The youngest brother, Ivan, would prefer to play with his leather ball, but he is encouraged to at least try. Each time, the family horse takes him to a magnificent palace populated entirely by elegantly attired cats. The felines are enamored of the gifts he presents-first the leather ball, then some catnip leaves, and finally a wooden ring that he offers to their queen. Ivan always receives a present in return, including the queen herself in human form as a bride, enabling him to trump his brothers and win the farm. Ivan prefers an alternative "happily ever after," however, and returns instead to the castle with his feline bride and becomes a cat. A note explains that although the tale is Latvian, the author and illustrator have moved the setting to the Ukraine, as evidenced both by the flavor of the language and specifics in the artwork. Kimmel has a true storyteller's voice and keeps the action moving at an energetic pace without sacrificing images or details. Krenina's watercolor and mixed-media paintings match the text's energy, and her palette of pinks and jewel-bright rubies add elegance. Like the collaborators' The Magic Dreidels (1996) and The Birds' Gift (1999, both Holiday), this offering is a winner.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Based on a Latvian tale, but set in Ukraine, Kimmel's retelling is the story in which the youngest son wins the quest but gives up the prize his two brothers covet. Never very interested in entering the family fray for the farm, Ivan is prodded by his father into competing. Ivan happens upon the Castle of Cats and finds that the queen of cats is very helpful in his success. After winning all three of the challenges-the most beautiful wedding kerchief (inside a walnut); the most beautiful wedding dress (inside an acorn); and the most beautiful bride (the cat queen herself)-Ivan declines the farm, leaving it to his brothers Petro and Havrilo. Ivan and his bride ride off in their coach, never to be seen again. Krenina's collage and painted illustrations, full of pattern and detail, bring a sense of old-world charm to the oft-told story. A retelling that emphasizes the idea that the quest for happiness is not the same for all people. An additional purchase. (Folktale. 4-8)