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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Nikolai Nosov
Age Range: 6-8
This enchanting story is narrated by a seven-year-old boy, who is spending the summer holidays with his grandparents in a small village in the country with his mischievous younger brother Shurik. Together they explore up in the attic where they find a fishing rod, old door handle and an old galosh. The boys squabble over the fishing rod and nearly come to blows but the older brother grabs it first and heads off to fish in the pond. Annoyingly, Shurik follows him and unhappy at not getting the fishing rod for himself he puts a spell on the fish: Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread. Whether because of the spell, or pure coincidence no fish appear. Returning to their grandparents’ home, Shurik commits another naughty act by nailing the galosh on to the front gate followed by the old door handle. Luckily grandad takes it very well and instead of scolding Shurik, he tells him that the second handle will come in useful for shorter people and that the galosh can be used by the postman to leave their mail.
Soviet writer Nikolai Nosov (1908-1976) was a master when it came to creating children's stories. He was the author of several humorous short stories, a school novel and popular adventures of Dunno and his friends. He was also a producer of animated and educational films from 1932-1951. Nosov’s books often contain naughty and curious characters who frequently get into unusual and often comic situations and Shurik certainly fits this description. The way in which the rivalry between the siblings is depicted is endearing and realistic. I. Semenov's artwork is simply superb. The expressions of the characters convey the emotions of the story. For example, the picture of the little boy shielding his handy-work on the gate when he sees grandpa is perfectly captured.