The Tale of The Firebird

Last updated Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author: Gennady Spirin
Illustrator: Gennady Spirin
Date of Publication: 2002
ISBN: 0399235841
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2011

Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly
As elegant as any imperial treasure, this sumptuously illustrated book showcases Spirin's (The Sea King's Daughter; Philipok) near-magical artistry. Here he adapts three Russian fairy tales to coin his own version of the story of the tsar's son and his quest for the dazzling firebird. This prince receives aid from a big gray wolf, who helps him through a number of trials, even though the prince doesn't always follow his instructions. Their adventures take them to far-off kingdoms, to Baba Yaga's chicken-footed cottage and to the battlefield of Koshchei the Immortal. Ultimately, Ivan-Tsarevitch not only finds the firebird but also rescues and wins the hand of princess Yelena the Beautiful. The cadences are stately ("In a moment, the wolf had transformed himself into a warrior's horse so great and strong that it cannot be described, either with words or with a brush"), and the artwork is some of Spirin's most exquisite. Some of his watercolors are shaped like triptychs or altarpieces, others stretch across both pages like tapestries.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is a firebird?
•  Have you ever seen a bird like this (peacock)?
•  What is flying on the back cover?

Vocabulary Selection:
•  ILLUMINATED -- to supply or brighten with light; light up
•  MIRACULOUS -- performed by or involving a supernatural power or agency: a miraculous cure
•  PRIMEVAL -- of or belonging to the first age or ages, esp of the world
•  IMMORTAL -- not mortal; not liable or subject to death
•  IMPASSABLE -- unable to be surmounted: an impassable obstacle to further negotiations
•  CONSULTING -- employed or involved in giving professional advice
•  SATYRS -- one of a class of woodland deities, attendant on Bacchus, represented as part human, part horse, and sometimes part goat and noted for riotousness and lasciviousness

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Have you ever been told not to touch something like a shiny, breakable object?
•  What is the witch flying in?
•  What beasts do you see in the picture of the witch’s cottage?

Craft ideas:
•  Cut out & draw colorful shapes to assemble a firebird (peacock).
•  Make a crown & decorate it with colorful jewels &/or flowers.
•  Make a tower using a column of construction paper & paper plate for the dome.
•  Color &/or paste windows, arches, & stars before assembling.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!