Monday, June 13, 2005

Russian Post (2): Grigorii Oster

Vrednye sovety

My favorite Russian children's author, Grigorii Oster, is relatively unknown
outside of Russia. If he had a website, I'd link to it, but unfortunately...

Oster writes hilarious poems intended for children (not their parents) and illustrates them with the funniest, kid-friendly drawings. His most famous book is called Vrednye sovety (Bad or Dangerous Advice) and features poems intended for, as he notes in the introduction, "disobedient children."

Here is his introduction to Vrednye sovety: "Scientists have recently discovered that there are disobedient children in this world--children who do everything in a contrary manner. People give advice to these children like, 'Wash in the morning.' They listen, but don't wash up. People say, 'Say hello to one another.' And they listen, but do not say hello. Scientists have discovered that to these children one has to give not useful advice, but, rather, bad advice. They'll do everything the opposite, and then everything will turn out as it should in the end. This book is for disobedient children."

There are poems about nose-picking, tricking your grandma, and other such bad behaviors. It's a great one.

One of Oster's most useful books, though, is a book called Zadachnik (Assignment Book). It is basically a textbook of word problems--but they are funny and have Oster's classic drawings. Here is a sample problem:

A dinosaur suffering from constipation ate two tons of grass for breakfast. For lunch he ate four tons. But for dinner a tyrannosaurus ate him. How much did the dinosaur weigh in the morning if we know that after dinner the tyrannosaurus weighed 23 tons?

Brilliant! I wonder if anything like this exists in English.