Seven Simeons – 1938 Caldecott Honor Book

1938 Caldecott Honor Book

Seven Simeons – A Russian Tale retold and illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff tells of a rich and very handsome king who is searching for a beautiful princess to be his bride who can match his good looks.  He, along with seven brothers all named Simeon, each with a different skill, sets out to win the hand of Princess Helena.  He eventually is granted his desire and marries the beautiful princess at an extravagant party.  The line-drawing illustrations are in red, olive green, and light brown, which sets this book apart from others with the unique colors used.  The print size is small and cumbersome for a children’s book.  Overall, an okay story, but I really didn’t appreciate that true beauty did not win out in this story.  In a world so focused on appearances, I would prefer for my children to learn to appreciate that true beauty is not what people can see on the outside, but the reflection of good character.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Definitely a less-used type of art with detailed line drawings in red, green, and brown.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – I would have enjoyed more pictures showing different aspects of the story.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – Not what would have come to my mind as being typically Russian or courtly, but in the end, it did get the point across.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The prince does not look remotely Russian to me, but more Italian or Middle-Eastern.  The Seven Simeons, however,are perfectly illustrated as Russian peasants.  The settings look more Chinese than Russian.  The plot is well delineated through the illustrations.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – This book does not attract the attention of children.  When “princess” means colorful cartoon characters to most children nowadays, these simple, dull illustrations seem less than entertaining.

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