Sanderson, R. (2001). The golden mare, the firebird, and the magic ring. Singapore: Little, Brown and Company.
This book is a young adult book that also is an elaborately illustrated picture book. This book is also a type of folktale called a magic or fairy tale. The story begins with the words, "Once upon a time, in a place where magic beasts still roamed the earth..." The setting of this story is vague. We do know that the majority of the story takes place at the Tsar's palace. It is very common for palaces and castles to be present in folktales. The characters in the story include a young huntsman named Alexi, a mare, a firebird, the Tsar, Yelena, and other insignificant characters.
Alexi went out in search of fortune. The first animal he came upon was a beautiful mare. Alexi spared her life and the mare promised to be at Alexi's service. Because the huntsman desired work and adventure, the mare took him to the Tsar and said that the Tsar could use him as another huntsman. The Tsar hired him, but was not happy that the mare would not allow anyone else to ride her other than Alexi. Alexi did all he could to make the Tsar happy. He brought him a feather of a beautiful firebird, but the Tsar was instantly upset that it was merely a feather. Alexi was successful in bringing the firebird to the Tsar to make him content. The firebird became one of the Tsar's selfish possessions. The young huntsman could never do enough to satisfy his boss. Lastly, the Tsar wanted Alexi to bring him Yelena the Fair, a young lady that the Tsar desired to marry. Alexi was once again successful in luring her and bringing her back with him. Yelena was not informed that she was going back to marry the Tsar. "I will marry no man without my grandmother's wedding ring," were her words. With that being said, The Tsar ordered Alexi to find the ring at the bottom of the Lake of the Sun. Alexi was able to find the ring, of course. The young girl, Yelena has magical powers. What will happen with the ring? Will the ring allow Yelena to make her own decision?
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and look so realistic. Page bleed is used on almost every page. The media appears to be a painting, possibly gouache or tempera. Symbolism comes into effect at the end of the story, with the wedding ring and the Water of Youth. Both of these items bring great meaning to the story. Person-against-person conflict is used in the story. Alexi has conflict with the Tsar throughout the entire story. Alexi is constantly trying to make his boss happy, but he never succeeds. Typical of folktales, this story has many fantasy elements, or examples of personification. For example, toward the end of story, the mare talks to a crab and asks the crab to locate a ring at the bottom of a lake. The crab called all creatures that crawl on the bottom of the lake to help him find it. Animals talk to one another and also talk to humans throughout the story as well. An example of a simile is, "It was a golden feather, bright as a flame..." Another example of a simile is, "He sank below the surface once, twice, and after the third time he rose like a shot a leaped from the cauldron."
I chose this book because the title grabbed my attention as well as the colorful illustration on the title page. The appropriately grade level would be 4th grade and up.
BIG questions - How do you think Alexi feels after he is submerged into the Water of Youth? When the baby grows up, do you think he will end up being like the original Tsar? Why does the first Tsar not appreciate Alexi?