Synopses & Reviews
Seven slippery scoundrels.
One tricky lock.
An unlikely solution...
Yakov, the kindly cobbler, and his wife, Olga, are heartbroken because their son, Mikhail, is very ill. They seek advice from a wise old man, who enlists the help of seven thieves and proves that miracles can occur if we do good deeds.
"Like Mr. Peabody's Apples, Madonna's new picture book was also inspired by a teacher (albeit one from the 18th century, according to an author's note on the flap) and profits from the work of a strong illustrator. The cobbler Yakov's only son, Mikhail, lies dying, and Yakov seeks help from the 'wise old man who lives in the last house at the edge of the village' who 'speaks to angels.' The old man's prayers reach the gates of heaven, but 'the gates were locked.' He then sends his grandson Pavel into town to assemble 'all the thieves, pickpockets, and criminals who live there.' Here the book takes on a comic tone as the author describes the seven thieves. Spirin, working in his usual meticulously detailed style, lets out the stops with portraits of such characters as 'big and fat and hairy' Vladimir the Villain, who busts out of his mishmash of clothing and attempts to bend a horseshoe, and Petra the Pickpocket ('her fingers were everywhere they were not supposed to be especially in her nose'). 'When they had all finished belching and farting and behaving like twits,' the seven miscreants fall to their knees next to the old man, and the thieves' prayers pick the locks on heaven's gates. Spirin's wordless spread of the septet on their knees, a glow emanating from their faces, makes clear that the miracle will transpire. Once again the author drives home the message. 'You see, the thieves represent the things in us that are bad or wrong or selfish,' says the old man to Pavel. 'And when we turn away from our naughty behavior and embrace good deeds, as the thieves did with their prayers, we are turning the key and unlocking the gates of heaven.' Spirin's paintings carry the real magic with subtlety and insight. He renders with care the smallest features of 18th-century European town life: cobbler's nails, brass drawer-pulls, feather pens, children's toys. Even Madonna's soapbox approach can't tarnish Spirin's images, nor the wit of the original story. Ages 4-8. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
When Yakov the cobbler's son lies dying, it is the thieves, pickpockets, and criminals of the village whose prayers are heard, causing the boy to be healed.
About the Author
Madonna Ritchie was born in Bay City, Michigan, and has seven brothers and sisters. She has sold two hundred million albums worldwide and has had more than 25 Top Ten singles. She is the recipient of three Grammys, as well as a Golden Globe award for her performance in Evita
. She lives with her husband, movie director Guy Ritchie, and her two children, Lola and Rocco, in London and Los Angeles. Her previous children's books, The English Roses
and Mr. Peabody's Apples
released in 40 languages in more than 100 countries are international bestsellers.
Gennady Spirin was born on Christmas day in a small city near Moscow. He has previously illustrated 33 children's books. He has received four gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, the Golden Apple and the Grand Prix from the Bratislava and Barcelona International Biennials, respectively, and the first prize at the Bologna International Book Fair. Mr. Spirin lives in New Jersey with his wife and three sons.