1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Humorous Tale of Magic and Faith with Great Illustrations,
This review is from: Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (Hardcover)
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship won the Caldecott Medal in 1969 as the best illustrated American children's book in that year. The illustrations feature bright colors, subtle shadings, and stylistically interesting pen highlights to suggest outlines and details. The illustrations take you enjoyably into a magical world for a fascinating journey, and greatly add to the pleasure of this traditional Russian tale. The story is build around the theme of: "You see how God loves simple folk."
A family has three sons, two who are clever and one who is foolish but who "never did anyone a harm in his life." The parents were proud of their clever sons and disappointed in their foolish one. When the news comes that the Czar wants a flying ship, the parents support the efforts of the two clever sons. They set off and are never heard from again. When the foolish son sets off, he gets the the minimum of support and encouragement.
The foolish soon runs into an ancient man The foolish son offers to share his meager food, apologizing to the ancient man. But when he opens his bag, marvelous food appears instead. The ancient man has magical powers and teaches the foolish son how to make a flying ship for the Czar. The ancient man also advises the foolish son to take along everyone he meets on his trip to the Czar's palace to deliver the flying ship.
Along the way, the foolish son meets a most unusual set of people with great individualized talents. As you read the book, you will be wondering what their significance could possibly be. They turn out to be a sort of 19th century X-Men.
The promised reward for bringing the flying ship had been the hand of the Czar's daughter in marriage and a rich dowry. When the foolish son arrives, the Czar's men report that those in the ship are only a bunch of uncouth peasants. As a result, the Czar doesn't want to make good on his promise, so he sets up extreme challenges (not unlike the Wizard of Oz). Using the remarkable talents of his passengers, all of the tests are met by the foolish son.
The foolish son is married to the Czar's daughter, and they live happily ever after. The foolish son then "became so clever that all the court repeated everything he said."
As you can see, the story is also a satire on the people who think they are clever or know how to identify cleverness. They often outsmart themselves. The Czar wanted a flying ship, but would have been much better off making good use of the talents of the peasants who were already part of his kingdom. Also, we are never told what use he made of the flying ship. It appears that he gave his daughter away for a whim. The winning man might as easily have been a terrible person. The courtiers also thought that anyone who was powerful was clever. I laughed aloud several times while reading the story.
Unlike most children's stories for this age group (4-8), this book has a richness of plot, character development, and humor that makes it more like a novel.
After you have finished enjoying the story with your child, I suggest that the two of you have some fun talking about places where "clever" people act foolishly and vice versa. You can help your child see the bright side of much of the nonsense that goes on around us.
Be foolish in providing and seeking out help, and a great bounty of friendship will be yours!