Anthea Bell's modern retelling of the classic Russian folktale Vasilisa the Beautiful enriches the original in a way that sets itself apart from the many others that came before it, declared the most recent New York Times Sunday Book review.
The newest title from minedition most certainly remains loyal to the original Russian text — damsel-in-distress and evil stepmother tropes and all. However, the florid, enchanting artwork by illustrator Anna Murgunova serves to enhance the throroughly frightening nature of the story, thereby highlighting the bravery of the fairytales' namesake.
Bell and Murgunova recount the story of a little girl named Vasilisa whose dying mother gives her a doll that she promises will protect her in times of distress. When Vasilisa's father remarries an evil woman who, together with her equally-cunning daughters, sends the young girl into the dark forest to meet the terrifying witch Baba Yaga, hoping that the child never returns. Vasilisa's magical doll gives her the courage to pass all of Baba Yaga's tests and eventually free herself from a life of servitude to her father's new family.
The New York Times review opines that Murgunova's rich, vivid illustrations "hint at a rich inner life beneath the surface. With each image set askew, often superimposed against a starry sky, the effect is to emphasize all the characters’ powerlessness in Baba Yaga’s great forest."
The review glowingly concludes that, "The art, so timeless and raw, offers a charged dream-life that suggests the primal nerve Vasilisa’s story strikes in Morgunova is far stronger than the lure of revisionism."
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