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The first page of the book offers a dramatic textual and visual opening featuring the author himself, who is indicated in the text by the first-person pronoun “I” (ia), standing in the lower right corner of the page.

Atop a schematic body of unrealistic proportions and pose, the figure’s head is a typically avant-garde photomontage insertion among otherwise stylized lithographic illustrations and reveals a face that is unmistakably Mayakovsky’s own.

In his left hand the figure holds a small red book with a distinctive cover design identifiable as Mayakovsky’s collection For the Voice (Dlia golosa) (1923), a remarkably experimental book designed and illustrated by Russian graphic artist El Lissitzky. Clearly, avant-garde aesthetics and Mayakovsky’s works for adults also enter into this children’s book, as indicated by these visual and textual quotations that an adult audience may recognize. 

Mayakovsky For the Voice (1923)

 

The revolutionary tone of the book becomes clear on the first page when the text reads: “I’m showing you a lion / please / have a look: / he’s / not at all the king of beasts / [but] simply a chairman.”

The lion wears a red band across his chest, signaling his adoption of revolutionary ideals. Having reformed his imperial (and, it would appear, carnivorous) ways, he patiently rings a bell to summon the council of animals. Red typography draws attention to particularly salient words, such as “lion,” “I,” and “chairman,” to emphasize those who have embraced the ideals of the revolution.