Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas in Russia

The story of Baboushka is a Russian Christmas legend that has been told for centuries. For those of you unaware, Baboushka (meaning grandmother), is the Russian version of Saint Nicholas, a beloved Christmas hero to children. Many stories have been told over the years; and today, the Russian Christmas Celebration, I have reviewed two versions of this legend, one a Caldecott Medal winner from 1960 and the other, a newer version, published in 2001.

Scholey, Arthur. Baboushka: A Christmas Folktale from Russia. 2001. Candlewick Press: Cambridge, MA.
Ages: 4-10
Genre: Folktales/Fairytales
Guided Reading Level:

This was no doubt my favorite of the two tales of Baboushka. The colorful illustrations by Helen Cann add to the wonderfully written story by Scholey. I was immediately draw into the story, as the illustrations themself are capable of providing a story. Unlike Baboushka and the Three Kings, children will likely be drawn to the story and anxious to find out whether or not Baboushka finds the royal baby, Jesus Christ.

Baboushka is depicted as one would imagine a grandmother - proud to keep her home clean and well kept; welcoming and providing to those that show up at her door, offering a place to rest and a feast. When the three kings show up at her door looking for a shelter as they await nightfall and the starlit sky as they follow "the star," which they believe will lead them to the newborn king of Heaven and Earth. They offer her to go along and join them in their search, but Baboushka felt she had much too work to accomplish at home and tells them she will join them "tomorrow." One day Baboushka notices just how alone she is and sets out in search of the kings. However, upon reaching Bethlehem, the place where several villagers had assured her the kings were traveling to, Baboushka is filled with disappointment to discover that the kings and the royal baby are no where to be found. The tale ends to say that Baboushka, to this day continues to search for the Christ child and that during her search, year after year, when she finds a sleeping child she leaves a toy behind for the child.

Robbins, Ruth. Baboushka and the Three Kings. 1960. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, MA.
Ages: 5-10
Genre: Folktales/Fairytales
Guided Reading Level: O

The tale itself is virtually the same as that told in Baboushka: A Christmas Tale from Russia, however I found the story much harder to follow. For every illustrated page, there is a full page of text. The illustrations did not capture my attention, as they appear to be marker drawn and lack an abundance of color. However, this version of the tale of Baboushka would be beneficial if trying to just tell the tale itself, perhaps for older children who don't rely on illustrations for text understanding. For my personal reading pleasures, I would definitely chose Baboushka: A Christmas Folktale from Russia.

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style='clear: both;' Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! 15 posts in a week? You are a blogging machine!