The Little Puppet Boy by James Riordan


The Little Puppet Boy by James Riordan

Petrushka is part of Russian folklore, but is not a folk tale. It is in the European tradition of 'Harlequin' and 'Punch', performed in a puppet theatre at travelling fairs. Petrushka is tired of being a clown in a puppet show. He wants to save pretty ballerina from Strongman and take her in his arms far, far away. His mind is made up and, encouraged by Skeleton, the next day he challenges his rival to a duel. But he's no match for Strongman and ends up in a lifeless, crumpled heap. 'That old ragdoll needs chucking out,' says the showman. But Petrushka has other ideas...

About the Author

James Riordan

James Riordan ( 10 October 1936 - 10 February 2012) grew up during the war in his chimney-sweep grandfather’s house in Portsmouth. After school he was a barman, waiter, railway clerk, commercial salesman, and dance band musician. During his National Service in the RAF he learned Russian and went on to become Professor of Russian Studies at Surrey University. Besides novels, he has written folk-tale collections, picture books and over 20 academic publications. His first novel for children, Sweet Clarinet, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and, like his other novels The Prisoner and When the Guns Fall Silent, is based partly on his own wartime experiences.

Riordan then produced a steady flow of anthologies of various kinds from across Russia and its near neighbours, acting as both collector and translator. He also diversified into other folk-story traditions, including The 12 Labours of Hercules (1998), which won the UK Reading Association award. His collection The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines (1985), including stories from Japan, Ghana, Sicily, Lapland and the UK, was celebrated for its strong female characters.

Breaking away from other people's stories, he wrote his first novel, Sweet Clarinet (1998), the touching story of a boy overcoming injuries sustained in the London Blitz through his love of playing music. Nine more novels followed; all have something of the folk tale about them in terms of a child overcoming adversity through courage and belief. Many, such as Rebel Cargo (2007), the story of children sold into slavery and his final novel, Blood Runner (2011), the story of a young black boy whose parents are killed by the South African police, carry strong socio-political messages. Russia never lost its appeal as a source of stories for him and he returned there with the setting of his penultimate novel, The Sniper (2008), which is based on the true story of a teenage marksman at the siege of Stalingrad.

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Book Info


64 pages


James Riordan
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Publication date

1st October 2007



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