While Patricia Polacco needs no introduction to those of you who have been enjoying her stories, rest of you book lovers deserve to experience the warmth that her books generously ooze out. And that is why I chose Rechenka's Eggs.
From my Russian background my stories are kind of ethnic, primitive, Eastern European â that's one type of voice I write in, says Patricia. Set in Moskva in pre-revolutionary Russia, that is exactly the voice we hear in this book.
Babushka (Russian for grandmother) is a kind hearted old woman who spends the cold and dark winter days painting eggshells in her country home. She has a reputation for her beautifully designed eggs and she plans on taking them to a contest for the Spring Festival in the city. On a snowy day that winter, even as she is greeting a herd of caribous outside of her home, an injured goose separates from its flock and falls on her lap. The good Samaritan Babushka is, heals the goose and gives it a cozy corner in her own home. Babushka lovingly names her Rechenka and the bird lays an egg for her every morning. Thus a friendship is born.
However, an accident that ends the serenity and goodness that we have gotten used to so far, also leads to a chain of magical events. A clumsy Rechenka overturns paint jars and even breaks Babushka's gorgeous eggs. Babushka is upset. But the next morning, her usual breakfast egg from the goose is not an ordinary one, but an exquisitely painted one! A dozen more follow. "A miracle",thrilled, Babushka whispers. It is soon spring, time for the festival. Also, the time for Rechenka to move on and migrate with her clan. Time for adieu. Babushka leaves for the city with her (Rechenka's) eggs. The eggs win her accolades. Back home, curled up loney with her book in bed, Babushka hears something. Following it, she finds a glorious egg left in the basket Rechenka rested. But this one moves....jumps..rolls...and there lies Rechenka's special gift!!!
The reader swallows a lump in the throat. A sigh. Beautiful does not describe it. And I am not saying it just for the story but for all those pictures that whisked us off to old Moscow. The Moskva women in ethnic attire, the onion-domed architecture, the eggshells - a dozen of them with intricate folkloric art, even the wrinkles and folds of skin on Babushka's face and limbs, all do their bit in binding us to the story.There is also this balance in the elements of reality and imagination - while the backdrop of wintry Moscow, the festival and the contest, the caribous and a warm-hearted Babushka ground the story, the painted eggs from the bird and the element of surprise impart a fairy-tale like magical quality that children will love. With her eye-catching illustrations, richness in flavor, lucid writing and a touching storyline, Patricia Polacco is truly a wonderful writer and artist. You need to read the book, to experience the joy!
The joy of folktales is something that we recently discovered at our home. Stepping aside from classics and contemporary humor , we seem to embrace folktales, quite effortlessly. The book that I have with me is an Irish folklore, bearing a tale very similar to the ones that were orally passed on to me while I was growing up.
The central characters in this tale are legendary giants Cuhullin and Finn McCool. Mrs. Oona McCool is the one with the brains and quite intuitively, also the one to save her husband oftentimes from Cuhullin. Now, Cuhullin has a magic finger that makes him strong and Finn has a magic thumb that bestows upon him, the power to foresee things. Finn uses his magic thumb and announces (in jitters of course) the impending arrival of Cuhullin. Mrs.McCool to the rescue! A simple story you think, buckle up for a good dose of slapstick humor! Children will be laughing boisterously as they see fun illustrations and hear goofy dialogues.
Mrs.McCool is quick witted. She drops Finn with a bonnet in a cradle and welcomes Cuhullin for tea. She makes unreasonable, rather unrealistic (not that there is realism to worry here) requests that demand extreme brawn from Cuhullin. And this she does, so nonchalantly that Cuhullin is led to believe that the tasks are all a routine in the McCool household. Just look at the front cover - there is Cuhullin trying to lift the house so Oona can broom off the dust underneath! Here is also a sample of silliness to taste - "Goodness!" exclaimed Cuhullin. "Look at the size of him! Look at the moustache! If this is the baby, what must Finn be like?" , as Cuhullin mistakes Finn for a real baby. He also ends up sticking his finger in the "baby's" mouth, only to have his magic finger bitten off! Petrified, the shrinking Cuhullin runs amok, leaving a cheery couple dancing!
"It was nothing, dear Finn," said Oona."Big is Big. But brains are better!" . Probably the profound truth that this story intended to convey to little children and just as the message drives home, you are still not really far from the jocund moments. The magic of folktales it is. Loony and wacky, oh yeah! But did you also realize the feminist undercurrent, the portrayal of the woman endowed with brainpower, the one to thwart a giant - amazing to think of it when there is still so much gripe in contemporary children's literature about the roles women or girls are given! Quick paced with bright collage like illustrations, this book is wonderful to be read aloud to children!
There is never enough said about folktales. Flavorful, informative and historic, with so much room for imagination. These hand me downs from wonderful storytellers, sometimes didactic and sometimes just for laughs. Timeless.
I saw Google incorporate the face of Gandhi into their logo first thing this morning. I was reminded of this book. Her aunt had given it to her on her birthday. I pulled it out of my saved-for-later stash and turned to look at the back cover. For all ages it said. I flipped through to make a quick judgment of the content before I presented it to her. I smiled and beckoned my little one.
My Gandhi Scrapbook, compiled by Sandhya Rao at Tulika Publishers, India.
A very warm and casually written introductory note from Sandhya talked in simple terms about scrap booking and went on to encourage children to add to the collection in the book. We flipped and we saw Gandhi everywhere! I canât help but verbalize a scrapbook here, now that I actually saw one, a well-made one. Photographs and images of currency and postal stamps bearing his visage were splattered all over. Tags, comments and labels floated near them with little details. She took her finger here..there. Mine followed hers. She then took the book closer to read finely printed letters on a vintage photo. Colorful art, monochromatic photographs and handwritten patches carried tidbits of his life, style and work.
Beyond the images of currency, were a bunch of thematically assembled photographs. All were sightings of places (streets, squares roads, parks) from around the world, carrying placards with his name. We turned the page, and saw more caricature. On this page, was a tip to create a quick Gandhi doodle. She giggled. But then came a spread of vintage black and white photographs of Mohandas, in his boyhood and adolescence (and of the bald old man we all love). Another couple of pages showed how omnipresent he is, even today. This was conveyed through images of magazine covers, child art and hoardings. Beside these were little bubbles loaded with bite-sized facts about the Mahatma. The neat bonus was a few sheets left blank for the child to collect more such wonderful scrap!
You get the idea now, I suppose. And so did my 5 year old. I watched her hold on to the book and gaze at the photographs even as I walked away thinking that every kid reading this book is sure to find him cool just as she did!
Digestibility. We all look for this attribute when it comes to presenting history, religion or mythology to our children. And this book takes good care of this.
Live simply that others may simply live â M.K.Gandhi. I pull this out from a yellow blob in this book, as we celebrate a heroâs birthday today!