The Greedy Sparrow, retold by Lucine Kasbarian

I don't review picture books all that often, but sometimes a. I don't have the time or inclination to read/write about longer books and b. nice picture books come in the mail.

So today I offer The Greedy Sparrow: an Armenian Tale, retold by Lucine Kasbarian, and illustrated by Maria Zaikina (Marshall Cavendish, 2011, 32 pages). It tells of a sparrow, who got a thorn in his foot. A baker pulls it out, but is taken aback when the sparrow returns a little while later, asking for its thorn back...the thorn has been burned, so the sparrow demands (and gets) bread in exchange. And from there the sparrow follows the same pattern of tricksy manipulation to move from bread to sheep, a sheep that ends up being slaughtered at wedding feast.

So the sparrow asks for the bride, and gets her! But it's not until the sparrow ends up with a minstrel's lute that he's happy...for a very brief while....

I knew this story already from Alan Garner's telling of it in his story collection, Bag of Moonshine, in which the sparrow is considerably more obnoxious! In this re-telling, it's the pictures almost more than the words that convey the pushy determination of the bird--Zaikina's sparrow is fierce and focused, and I loved it very much! I loved her sheep too, especially the expression on its face as the sparrow flies off with it in his claws (shown on the cover)! And the illustrations in themselves have lovey stained-glassy look them--with heavy outlines and rich colors.

Kasbarian, herself Armenian, learned this story as a child, and sets it firmly in an Armenian setting, which I appreciated. For instance, "the sparrow and the bride traveled the mountains and valleys of the Caucasus." Garner's sparrow is very English, and very amusing, but I enjoyed meeting the sparrow on his home ground!

And for those who worry about the bride--even though her new husband makes no effort to keep her from the sparrow, she manages to escape on her own!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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