Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tale of Baboushka

Combining elements of the Bible's harried Martha and the traditional story of St. Nicholas, Elena Pasquali's The Tale of Baboushka is a thought provoking Christmas folk tale.

Baboushka ("grandma" in Russian) works hard to maintain her home; there's not a speck of dust around and absolutely everything is in it's place. She also loves to sew, and has a cupboard full of dolls, teddy bears, and other tidily made toys. One winter night, Baboushka hears a knock. She's a bit grumbly because she's in the middle of cooking - but she answers the door to find three travelers in rich clothes. They are looking for a place to spend the night.

Baboushka welcomes them into her home, tucks their hats and cloaks away and serves them food and "home-brewed ale." She asks about their heavy bags. The travelers say they are "gifts for a king....A king for whom a new star shines...the king of love, the prince of peace." Excited, Baboushka wants to give the travelers gifts from her cupboard to take to the king. They tell her she should come along with them instead: "Leave cares aside and follow the king."
"'!' said Baboushka. 'I...I'm not quite ready...I'll find your footsteps, and I'll watch for the star. But first I must sweep and clean and tidy and wash and iron and brush and scrub and so much more...'"
By the time Baboushka is done with her chores, she can no longer find the traveler's footsteps in the snow, and the bright star is gone from the sky. So she tries to find the king without guidance. On the way, she meets many children, and she can't resist leaving them with a sweet gift from her cupboard.
"Still she is seeking. Still she is giving, and all for the sake of the king of love."

What I Like: This folk tale was originally designed to explain the presence of gifts on Christmas - rather like the original stories of St. Nicolas. But what I most enjoy about the story is the important message that we must follow Jesus today - not wait until tomorrow. Like the Martha of the Bible, we must focus on God above all other things - even good things, like keeping a neat house. The illustrations by Lucia Mongioj are also appealing, in a folkish style slightly reminiscent of Russian design.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 5 and up, but my 3 year old likes the book, too.

Publishing Info: Lion; 2011; ISBN: 978-0745962757; hardback, 32 pgs., $14.99.

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Special Info: Read our other reviews of other books by Elena Pasquali.


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