CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1969
retold by Arthur Ransome
illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968
Interests: folktales, Russia, magic, ships, flying
Also by this author: Old Peter’s Russian Tales, Swallows and Amazons series
Also by this illustrator: The Treasure, Snow, How I Learned Geography, SoSleepyStory
A foolish youngest son, despite his parents’ derision and lack of faith, sets out to win the hand of a princess. Through his kindness and carefree happy ways, he makes friends with a mysterious old man. Thanks to the old man’s advice, the fool is able to build a flying ship and sail over the fields and countryside. He picks up several new friends on the way to the palace, who help him fulfill the Tsar’s many impossible tasks. In the end the fool finally gets his princess.
This is a familiar story in folklore, about the youngest son who everyone thinks is a fool, and who proves them all wrong in the end. This version supplies him with very useful friends, all with magical abilities. And in this tale the hero and his friends spend the entire time singing and carrying on, telling jokes and stories and enjoying themselves, which gives the story added charm and panache.
A lively tale, well told, with colourful, evocative illustrations. I particularly liked the image of the ship adrift in the vast white sky, and the fantastical palace of the Tsar. The story is, however, a little long and wordy, requiring some concentration from the reader to follow all the events and keep track of all the characters.