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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 Eugene Schwarz
Age Range: 6-8
Forester Blackbeard lives with his wife and two sons, twelve-year-old Big Brother and seven-year-old Little Brother. The two siblings quarrel every single day. New Year's Eve is rapidly approaching and the parents must travel to the village to buy some supplies and will be gone for three days. They entrust Big Brother to look after his younger brother and tell them they must not fight.
Big Brother is immersed in reading Sinbad the Sailor when Little Brother interrupts him because he wants to play. In a fit of anger, Big Brother throws him outdoors in the cold, snowy winters night. A little while later he opens the door to let his brother in but Little Brother is nowhere to be seen. When the parents return home and discover their younger son is missing they order Big Brother to go out into the forest to search for the missing child. In the forest, Big Brother encounters Great-grandfather Frost and discovers that his brother is a prisoner in room 49 of the frozen palace. Big Brother is put under a magic spell and made to freeze all the animals in the forest. In order to secure the safe return of his younger sibling, he must learn the value of brotherly love.
Russian author Eugene (Evgeny) Schwarz (1896-1958) wrote Two Brothers in 1941. This short morality tale is essentially about being kind. The author uses ‘ice’ as an allegory showing that acts of kindness can melt the ice of cruel behaviour. Big Brother’s remorse and rescuing of his brother allows the ice to melt so that Little Brother and the animals are free. The black and white illustrations by Gabriel Lisowski capture a far-away world where reality and fantasy meet.
Schwarz was an editor, novelist and playwright during the avant-garde period. He first studied theatre before joining Gosizdat, Children’s Department of State Publishing House, Leningrad in 1924 under the administration of Samuil Marshak. He became an author of the children's magazines Hedgehog and Siskin and wrote several children's books, including The Story of Old Balalaika (1924), The Adventures of Shura and Marousi (1937), Alien Girl (1937) and First Grader (1949).