July 5, 2006

DT Bizarre Book Contest: Muha-Zhokotuha (Buzzing Fly)

muha_chukovsky.JPGTitle: Muha-Zhokotuha (Buzzing Fly) [ebay search]
Author/Illustrator: Korney Chukovsky [wikipedia entry]
Reviewed by: Ana & Sergei

Here is a Russian must-have, read and learn rhymes and stories collection. I had it as a kid, and my 4-yo recently got it as gift.

The poem is about a Fly that finds money and decides to throw a party for all her bug friends. She buys Samovar and invites the bugs. In the midst of the party, a mean Spider shows up and captures the hostess. Scared guests scatter away as Fly begs for help. While she reminds the bugs that she welcomed them in her home and fed them, the young readers learn that Ķthe Spider is serious. He is tying Flys feet and hands with ropes, piercing her heart with his teeth and is sucking her blood.

All of the sudden arrives the Hero-Mosquito and beheads the spider. As all the bugs run out to cheer. The Mosquito tells the Fly in a polite, but in a rather will not take no for an answer way, that the Fly now has to marry him because he saved her. And the poem ends with a wedding.

The book also includes other rather ambiguous rhymes about things like being set on fire, a bear fighting with crocodile, and animals eating each other out of fear (they are that scared of a cockroach). I guess what is striking the most is how violent the language is occasionally, and that is on top of the questionable plots. Definitely not suited for 3+.

Muha-Zhokotuha is pretty much Mary had a little lamb for Russian children. It is frequently staged in Kindergartens. I never thought there was anything wrong with it--that is as a 4-5 year old--but now find myself doing some editing while reading the book to my son and certainly have to explain a lot of pictures that he finds in the book.

[ed note: it's a reminder of how grim the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are, too. Those crazy Euros... -ed.]

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