Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Koshka's Tales Stories from Russia


Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia
Written By: James Mayhew

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 77 pages
Publisher: Kingfisher Books (October 1993)
ISBN-10: 1856979431
ISBN-13: 978-1856979436

Vonze: 4 out of 5

Bet you didn't know that March 22nd to 28th is World Folk Tales and Fables Week! It's to encourage people to explore the lessons to be learned from folk tales, fables, myths and legends from around the world. So, I picked the childrens' book Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia.

Koshka's Tales begins as a lonely tsar searches for a wife. He looks all over his kingdom, until he decides to marry one girl out of a group of three sisters. He picks the youngest of the three sisters, because she promises she will give him strong, golden haired sons. Well, of course, her sisters become jealous and plot to ruin her with the help of a cannibal witch. Each time she gives birth, her sisters steal her children away and give them to the witch. Until, finally, she realizes something is up and hides one of the babies up her sleeve before her sisters can find him. But it's too late, the tsar is furious that something keeps happening to all the babies. So, he puts her in a coffin and casts her into the sea.

Therein lies what I disliked about this story. Why didn't the tsaritsa (or queen) just show him the baby she hid herself? Why didn't she tell him? But then, I guess, we'd have no story.

The tsaritsa ends up on an island with the son she hid up her sleeve. There they meet a story-telling cat named Koshka, who is tied to a tree. Koshka tells them many stories, making the book a series of tales within a tale. Out of Koshka's tales, I enjoyed The Snowmaiden and The Tale of the Firebird, Tsarevitch Ivan and Grey Wolf the most. Everything works out in the end and all the stories have good endings.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed learning more about Russia in the process. However, the story did start out slowly, yet, got better. I feel that the book's target group, 5 to 8 year olds, might be a little too young to appreciate these tales. The illustrations were beautiful, but many of the pages were seventy-five percent text. I'm afraid a young child might lose interest, unless their family is connected to Russia in someway or the child already loves folktales.

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