Open Diary: Reviews

Saviour Pirotta’s Firebird

Saviour Pirotta takes his readers on a magical journey through the pages of his book Firebird.  Based on a Russian ballet,  Pirotta’s masterfully illustrated story that contains heroism, triumph, love, friendship and freedom.   Prince Ivan, the youngest son of King Vaslav, commences on a journey to retrieve a magnificent firebird, to prove to his father that he is not “young and foolish.”  Ivan must overcome various difficult tasks including confronting the ferocious Gray Wolf, who actually turns out to be a prized companion to the young prince on his journey.  Together, Gray Wolf and Ivan set out to capture the dazzling firebird, a wondrous horse and a beautiful princess.  The connection between Ivan and Gray Wolf teaches readers the importance of friendship and loyalty.  Pirotta eloquently exemplifies  these underlying morals throughout the story.  He writes,

“In no time at all, the three friends had met up once more.  When they came to the boulder at the crossroads, Gray Wolf said, “I fear the time has come for us to part.”  Ivan and Helen both hugged Gray Wolf, who then slipped away into the shadows, never to be seen again.”


His writing is exceedingly clear and precise.  He does not add a lot of complex sentences, which oftentimes can muddle the message of the story.  He directly addresses the idea that we as humans are not perfect and often times rely on others to help us through life.   Communal spirit and togetherness is a major aspect of the Russian cultural belief system due to the fact that Russia is separated geographically from other countries.   At one point in the story Grey Wolf says to Prince Ivan, “Ivan, since you took no notice of my warnings about the birdcage or the bridle, I know you will not obey me this time, either. Go back along the road and wait for me there.”  Pirotta does not beat around the bush when it comes to the fact that Ivan never follows Grey Wolf’s advice, so he has to rely on his friend to assist him on his voyage.  Even though Ivan does not take direction well, the values of friendship and honesty emerge from the story through the Grey Wolf’s actions and sacrifices.

Moreover, another idea that is stressed throughout Firebird is freedom.  Ivan faces oppression by his father who constantly doubts his abilities, the firebird is held captive in her golden cage, the horse is constrained in her stables and the princess is a prisoner in her own castle.  But Grey Wolf warns Ivan not to take the cage or the horse’s bridle, which are the things that make them prisoners.  However, he gives into temptation and takes them anyways. Ivan’s actions are representative of human temptations and desires. But when he sees the selfless sacrifices that Grey Wolf makes so Ivan and the princess can be happy together, he realizes that being free is the richest way to live. Grey Wolf’s actions are reminiscent of Russian hospitality and unity, and he seems to be the pivotal character throughout the story.  He is the voice of reason for Ivan, and teaches him the importance of integrity and humility, which ultimately helps him grow into a more well-rounded man.  Pirotta wants to inspire his readers to live a life of freedom, friendship, and loyalty.   Pirotta ends the story by saying “But Prince Ivan decided to set the firebird free,” and in much larger font he continues, “For no one likes to live in a cage.”

Text copyright 2010
Candlewick Press
Cover Illustrations by Catherine Hyde
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