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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)
A Ring and A Riddle
by M. Ilin and E. Segal
Age Range: 6-8
When the father of three sons dies, they each inherit something: the eldest a little thatched hut, the second son, an old tattered fishing net and Ivan, the youngest, a rusty axe. When Ivan goes out into the world he comes to a crossroads and he must choose which one to take. The road to the right will ensure he always has enough food; the road to the left enough to drink, but if Ivan chooses to go straight ahead therein lies the way to a fortune. Ivan chooses the latter and along the way, he meets a maiden who gives him a ring and asks him to follow it wherever it goes. Throughout his journey, Ivan encounters several hurdles but also objects that help him including a 'magic mirror', 'crystal apple', 'self-sawing saw', 'seven-league boots' and a 'magic towel'. Will Ivan be able to overcome the obstacles, resist temptation and follow the maiden's advice?
The message from the authors at the beginning of the book is that this is no ordinary fairy story – it is a riddle-story. The reader must read the story and then solve the riddles along with the protagonist. The answers are provided at the end of the book.
A Ring and a Riddle was written by two Soviet writers of popular books for children, Ilya, the brother of Samuil Marshak, writing under the pseudonym M. Ilin (1896-1953) and Elena Segal (1905-1980). They have used a familiar fairy tale formula but with a difference. Each magic gift that Ivan finds has an allegorical explanation in the wonders of science as they are all things that exist in the real world.
Remarkable, outstanding and exquisite illustrations by Vera Bock (1905-1973). Bock was a Russian-born American artist and noted illustrator, painter and graphic designer. The predominantly black and red block print-style images are delicate and meticulously drawn with such attention to detail in the alternating illustrations, page decorations and borders which give balance and a highly effective visual experience.