DetailsIt's Christmas and Natalia misses her baba.
When the wind brings her a babushka just like the one Baba used to wear, a magical adventure unfolds and Natalia discovers the traditions of her Ukrainian heritage--the greatest of which is the love of family.
- Additional Information
ISBN 9781894431538 Publication Date Sep 1, 2010 Author Mutala, Marion Illustrator Siemens, Wendy Pages 40 Size 9.00″ x 9.00″
Customer Reviews 3 item(s)
- Resource Links Editor
- It is the time of Ukrainian Christmas and Natalia misses her deceased Baba (grandmother) very much. She feels that even though Baba has died, she still watches over her. Suddenly, a flowered babushka appears out of nowhere and covers her head. It is a magic scarf and she finds herself flying through time and space to a farm in the Ukraine. Natalia enters the farm house and observes a family celebrating Ukrainian Christmas with a traditional feast. The family are not able to see Natalia but slowly she realizes that they are familiar. Indeed, they are her own family from long ago. The little girl in the family is her own beloved Baba. After secretly celebrating with her family, she puts the magic babushka back on her head. In the morning she awakes back home in her own bed. The story has an excellent description of Ukrainian Christmas traditions. The richly hued illustrations and borders incorporate Ukrainian designs. There is a Ukrainian Glossary and recipe on the back page.
- Retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
Suddenly, rainbows appear, and instead of snowflakes, flowers float down. Something else falls from the sky, a flowered blue babushka (head scarf, or kerchief) which lands on Natalia’s head and transports her to another place and time: a farm in rural Ukraine, sometime in the late 1800’s. While much about the farm looks familiar, Natalia knows she’s not in 20th century Saskatchewan. Once inside the farmhouse, Natalia hears the familiar strains of the traditional Ukrainian Nativity hymn, Boh Predvichnyj! (God Eternal). The family who lives in that straw-thatched, whitewashed farm house is ready to sit down to their Christmas Eve dinner: 12 meatless dishes, the table centred with three braided rounds of bread stacked on top of each other, and an empty place setting at the table, in memory of those who longer share a place at the earthly table. When Natalia speaks to a blue-eyed little girl of her age, she gets no response; the people at the table are oblivious to her presence, although no one seems to notice that she is enjoying the food as much as anyone else! After supper, everyone attends the evening service at the village church. “Though it was only a village church, the magnificence of the service, the prayers, the chanting, the music was mesmerizing. Natalia felt like she was in a dream.” Riding home from church in a horse-drawn wagon, she nestles against the little blue-eyed girl who also wears a flowered babushka. And when Natalia awakens on Christmas Day, the first thing she sees is the photo of Baba as a little girl. Then, she realizes that somehow, she had spent Sviat Vechir in Ukraine, with her baba’s family. Perhaps there was something magical about that blue babushka that fell from the sky.
Each of the books in Marion Mutala Baba’s Babushka series can be read by itself, but, because the books trace Baba’s life story from girlhood to adulthood, the series works best if read in sequence. The continuation of cultural tradition within a family, the special love that grandchildren can have for their grandparents, and the importance of holding on to one’s heritage inform all three of the books. By focusing on the two major liturgical celebrations of Christmas and Easter, as well as depicting Baba and Dido’s wedding, Mutala has incorporated the details of centuries-old tradition in a way that works naturally within the narrative. I think that books would find an audience amongst Canadian girls of Ukrainian heritage – few boys will be interested in time travel enabled by a flowered head scarf, and the story’s focus is definitely on the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter. Readers will certainly see the connections between current cultural practices (especially those involving food) which have been retained or learn about customs which would have been familiar to past generations.
The illustrations of the first two books have a naïve, folkloric quality, reminiscent to me of the art of William Kurelek. A different artist provided the illustrations in A Magical Ukrainian Wedding and, as a result, drawings are rendered in much brighter colours and both Natalia and Sophie look different from their presentation in the previous books. Each book is only 48 pages long, featuring a full-colour illustration facing each page of text; oddly, the books are unpaginated. Readers whose knowledge of Ukrainian is minimal will appreciate Mutala’s inclusion of a Glossary and pronunciation guide. And, because each of the celebrations has a special food made and served only for that occasion, at the end of the book, Mutala has provided basic recipes for kutya (the wheat porridge eaten as the first dish of the Svia Vechir dinner), Paska (Easter bread), and Korovai (the elaborately decorated round braided bread which is featured at a Ukrainian wedding.)
The three Baba’s Babushka books are a worthwhile acquisition for elementary school libraries and resource collection in schools which offer Ukrainian language programing, and for public libraries serving communities with significant Ukrainian-Canadian populations.
- SPG Book Review
Baba's Babushka is a delightful Christmas tale written by Saskatchewan author Marion Mutala. She has created a charming story that celebrates her proud Ukrainian heritage and lives up to the subtitle of her book, “A Magical Ukrainian Christmas.”
Natalia, the star of this lively story, is a little Ukrainian girl living in rural Saskatchewan who is taken, with the reader, on an enchanted journey back in time. Although Natalia is excited, like all children, about Christmas, her joy is marred by a deep sadness. This will be the first Christmas that her beloved grandmother, Baba, will not be present to share in the fun, festivities, and traditions of Christmas with her family.
One day a brightly-coloured red and blue babushka, or headscarf, appears out of nowhere that reminds Natalia of the one her Baba used to wear. Mysteriously transported to another time and place, Natalia finds herself sharing a meal with a strangely familiar family who perform all the same Christmas Eve traditions her own family does. Waking up Christmas morning, Natalia finds a picture of her Baba on the table beside her bed with the red and blue babushka tucked underneath it. Who was the little girl she spent Christmas Eve with? Could it have been her own dear Baba?
Marion Mutala has written what will surely become a Christmas classic and find a beloved spot in every child’s library. Keep an eye out in the future for more books by Mutala celebrating the Ukrainian heritage of Saskatchewan. If the first book is any indication, we're in for a treat.