The Tale of the Firebird

Retold and Illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Discussion and Activities

For pre-reading ideas and background information on folktales and their conventions, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.

While Russian folktales boast many of the structural features of other European folktales, they are played out on a wider canvas than most. After familiarizing children with the size and geographic/topographic characteristics of the Russian landscape, discuss how the multiple quests of the Tsar's youngest son, propelling him to "a kingdom beyond all other kingdoms," and Gennady Spirin's exquisitely detailed illustrations, reflect the vastness of the Russian motherland.

Introduce students to the term "architecture," the art of designing and building structures usually lived in or used by people, as one of the oldest art forms reflecting their histories. Using familiar structures of home and neighborhood, note how elements of line, shape, color and texture, and patterns of shape and symmetry are incorporated into architectural design. Ask students to describe these elements and patterns as they appear in Gennady Spirin's art in this Russian tale. Note, in particular, the onion shape that defines the rooftops of these imaginary kingdoms and, further, serves as a shape motif for illustration throughout the book. Using Internet or library resources, expand students' awareness and appreciation of Russian architectures by viewing and describing the design features of such structures as: the Cathedral of St. Basil, the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the Summer Palace at Tsarkoe Selo.

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Brought to you by Penguin Young Readers Group.


The Penguin Group is the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world. The company possesses perhaps the world's most prestigious list of best-selling authors and a backlist of unparalleled breadth, depth, and quality. Penguin Young Readers Group features books by authors and illustrators including Judy Blume, Brian Jacques, Eric Carle, and beloved characters like Winnie-the-Pooh, Madeline, The Little Engine that Could, and many, many more.


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