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.
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
Spring has been a little tardy this year in some parts of the country, but a good book is just the thing to help our little ones wait for warmer days. This week I’m reading And Then It’s Spring, written by Julia Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead.
This book is subtle and clever. It’s a patient book, for it’s meant to unfold slowly. A little boy waits for the first signs of spring, carefully watching his garden with his animal friends. Nothing seems to be happening, but keen young observers might notice that gradually the boy leaves off his scarf, and then his hat, and then his coat. The text reflects his hopeful mental meanderings as he devotedly guards his little patch of earth, trusting that the dormant season must surely end soon. Who couldn’t relate to that?
The illustrations are sweetly expressive, capturing our anticipation for springtime. There is a lot to notice in a way that particularly seems to fascinate toddler and preschool readers, and this would be a charming story time choice with children or groups up to first or second grade.
Some children will recognize and pick out the changes on each page themselves; some will enjoy having a grown-up help them look (and then notice those same changes each day in their own world); and some kids honestly might be a little bit bored with it. Spring, after all, can be slow to arrive. But that boredom is ok; it’s part of engaging with the natural world. However you think your child might respond, this book is well worth looking for at your library and it only takes a couple of minutes to read. If your child doesn’t want to read it again, follow their lead. However I suspect that you might be surprised by how much time you’ll spend poring over a book that looks so simple yet has so much to offer.
*Spoiler Alert* Spring finally does come in the end, to the boy’s obvious delight. And this story is so thoughtful that even the endpapers celebrate: the front pages are a pale winter blue, but the end pages are a vibrant spring blue. Here’s to spring!
If you liked this book you might also enjoy: Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett