A neglected Russian typewriter clicks, clacks, and rings to life with a new owner.
Brought to the United States from Russia by an aspiring novelist, a typewriter (with Cyrillic text) becomes obsolete when the author purchases a laptop with a shiny screen. The machine feels unloved, and eventually the writer gives it away. The typewriter is oddly charming, with eyes on this ribbon spools and a parenthetical mouth that smiles or frowns across his spacebar. Mixed-media illustrations jump off the page despite the muted palette. The text is artfully integrated into the illustrations, crisscrossing city streets or stepping upstairs. The delicately poetic story subtly alludes to an immigrant experience of hard work and adapting to a new culture, but it also offers hope that old customs will continue to have a purpose in our rapidly changing world. A uniquely beautiful story that may appeal to slightly older readers.
–Chance Lee Joyner, School Library Journal, 03/01/2020
Yevgenia Nayberg gives the job of narrating her picture book to an obsolete but still wonderful piece of machinery that most young children today will never have encountered in person. “I am an old Russian typewriter,” the typewriter says, looking at us from ink-ribbon reels that resemble eyes. “I type on paper,” he continues, as fragments of Cyrillic float around him. “When I get to the end of the line, I ring the bell. I make beautiful sounds.” In Ms. Nayberg’s off-kilter, mixed-media illustrations, we learn the typewriter’s bittersweet tale: how he met a writer in Russia “when I was just out of the factory”; how the writer brought him as a prized possession to Amerca; and how, eventually, he was ousted by a laptop and left outside bearing a sign: “Free to good home.” Poor typewriter! “I had read enough Russian novels to know that it would begin to rain now,” he predicts, correctly. Yet what is this? Along comes a little girl to save the day in this oddly charming story for readers ages 6 to 8.
–Meghan Cox Gurdon, Wall Street Journal, 02/21/2020
Though accustomed to making stories with others, an “old Russian typewriter” now spins a tale of its own. This quirky tale begins with the typewriter, painted lovingly in exquisite detail, presenting itself and its 33 Cyrillic letters, with which it makes “beautiful sounds.” At the outset, the typewriter belongs to a Russian writer, and the two create stories together. Everything changes, however, when the writer decides to start a new life in America. Being able to bring only “the most necessary things,” he chooses the typewriter, for “how else can [he] write in America?” The new land brings new challenges, and the typewriter soon finds itself neglected, abandoned for newer technologies. Worse yet, in typical Russian-novel fashion, it begins to rain. But the new day brings an inquisitive little girl to the typewriter; although she doesn’t know Russian, she cajoles her father into bringing it home. The typewriter, overjoyed, shows her its keys, convinced that “we will make beautiful sounds together.” Simple language, the detached yet tender narrative voice, and wonderfully stylized, almost jazzlike illustrations in muted colors give this story its charm. Human figures throughout are diverse, and the father-and-daughter pair who rescue the typewriter present black. Readers familiar with Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet may enjoy trying to decipher the printed scraps of the writer’s work scattered throughout. A gentle, unusual take on the immigration story.