Kashtanka by Anton Chekhov

This is a children’s book illustrated by Gennady Spirin. The ISBN is 0-15-200539-0. The reason I mention this is that I want to talk about the presentation of the book – something that is obviously very important in a children’s book.

Spirin’s illustrations are absolutely beautiful. The are detailed and have a great amount of depth and character. Unfortunately, they are also very dark. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except that the pages are very glossy, meaning that I had to struggle and essentially read in the dark just so that I could see them at all. It was such a shame and obviously a huge downside if this book is to be shared with kids.

The other big issue I took with the presentation of the book is that the text boxes looked too simplistic. There was no relationship between the illustrations at the text. Rather, half the page would just be white with text or, at best, there would be a thin and undecorated yellow border.

The story itself was so-so. As far as Russian classical authors go, I might be least familiar with with Chekhov. Because of this, it’s rather difficult to judge what the story might have been like in the original language. That being said, I think it would have taken more than just changing the choice of wording to save the story. It was just very superficial. For example, when Kashtanka’s masters find her again, the man who had taken her in is never mentioned again – despite the fact that he had spent a lot of energy to train her, may well have grown to like her, and would be left without an act once the dog left. In that sense, the story is very much incomplete.

I wouldn’t bother buying this book.