A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Siberian Tiger Tales

     One of the things I love about traveling is discovering new books. While browsing the local bookstores in Juneau recently, I came across Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East, translated by Henry N. Michael and edited by Alexander B. Dolitsky, chairman of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center. The eye-catching cover, reproduced from a  painting by Jason Morgan, is only a precursor of the delights to be found inside this beautiful piece of book making.    

Cover art by Jason Morgan.

     The four stories inside are translated from a longer Russian edition of literary folktales, which were written by Dmitriy Nagishkin and based upon stories from indigenous groups in the Russian Far East. This English collection focuses on stories in which the Siberian tiger plays a role and pays tribute to their importance, through art, poetry, storytelling and factual information. In a preface and several brief introductory chapters, Dolitsky explains that numbers of panthera tigris altaica are dwindling to the point of critical endangerment. Before launching into the folktales, he discusses the dominant role tigers have played in Native culture and introduces readers to the ethnic groups of the Siberian Far East. A foreword by Wallace Olson, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast, summarizes the significance of folktales in general and these four specifically.

From "The Little Girl Elga" in Spirit of the Siberian Tiger.
Illustration by Gennadiy Pavlishin.

      The stories are intriguing on their own. Titles like “The Seven Fears,” “The Little Girl Elga,” “The Greedy Kanchuga” and “Kile Bamba and Loche-The Strongman” had me hooked even before I began reading. Told in a direct style that flows well, each ends with “Discussion Topics” that would prove useful for teachers. Interior illustrations by Russian artist Gennadiy Pavlishin are sumptuous, whether as chapter-concluding accents or full-page spreads. An index, glossary, bibliography, and transliteration table (Russian letters to English) make this a valuable educational resource, as well as an entertaining storybook with beautiful art.

Published by the Alaska-Siberia Research Center, 2008.
For adults, educators, and older children who have an interest in folk and fairy tales, or Russian and Siberian culture.

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