Review: Rechenka’s Eggs

Few author-illustrators can render folk tales with as much love as Patricia Polacco. I could go on and on about her wonderful tributes to heritage and family, but with Easter coming it is her classic Rechenka’s Eggs that I would particularly like to recommend.

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This tale about a kind old lady who takes in a wounded goose is told and illustrated in Polacco’s trademark style. The old lady is also a master painter of traditional Russian Easter eggs, which are brilliantly replicated on the pages amid the babushka’s humble home. When the curious goose breaks the eggs one day not long before the Easter Festival, what is Babushka to do? The resolution is both sweet and magical.

 The genius of this book is not just in the beautiful story and bright folk art, but also how skillfully the messages are conveyed. This is a story of faith, of kindness and mercy, of respect for wild creatures and for the wisdom of age. But these features – values, if you will – are crafted in so subtly that a reader of any age can breathe them in without feeling strangled. This is a morality that is natural and universal.

Babushka’s world is plainly Christian, with icons in her home and onion-domed churches on the horizon, and of course her observance of the traditional Easter customs. One feels that her generosity must be drawn from her faith, but that her door is open to everyone. A reader of a different faith or none at all will easily feel at home with Babushka and her special goose.

I should note that the goose, Rechenka, has been injured by hunters; it is briefly and tastefully mentioned but be prepared to explain should a younger listener ask how that came about.

Rechenka’s Eggs is, like most of this author’s work, a gorgeous story to read aloud. Foreign names are easily navigated and add a special flavor to the story. This is storytelling at its best and as Easter approaches I highly recommend it for all ages – and that means you grown-ups too.

If you liked this book you might also enjoy: Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato  by Tomie dePaola

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