DetailsIt's Easter! Time for another holiday adventure! When the wind brings Natalia another babushka just like the ones her Baba used to wear, the young girl goes on a magical journey to a springtime in the past and discovers the Easter traditions of her Ukrainian heritage.
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ISBN 9781894431705 Publication Date Aug 1, 2012 Author Mutala, Marion Illustrator Siemens, Wendy Pages 40 Size 8.00″ x 8.00″
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- Natalia returns in a new seasonal adventure. This time the story describes the traditions of a Ukrainian Easter. Once again she remembers her Baba because she misses her. A different magical babushka appears and covers Natalia’s head. She flies to the Ukraine of distant past to a village church. Her family are there in church celebrating Easter. Her Baba is now a young woman. Baba is about to give a young man a traditionally dyed Ukrainian Easter egg when it drops and breaks to her extreme embarrassment. However, Natalia happens to have an Easter egg that she has decorated herself and she carefully places it on the ground. Baba sees it and gives it to her young man. Traditional singing and dancing ensue. Natalia puts the babushka on her head once more and wakes up in present day beside her own family’s pond. The illustrations are rich in colour and aptly support the text. The story is an excellent way to learn about Ukrainian Easter traditions.
- Retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
The next book in the series, Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter, continues the story of Natalia and her baba, this time focusing on Easter (known as Velykden, or “the Great Day” of Christ’s Resurrection). The Easter tradition best known to non-Ukrainians is the making of pysanky, beautifully decorated Easter eggs, written on with a wax stylus (in Ukrainian, the word pysaty means “to write”) and dyed in a series of colours until the wax is melted from the egg, revealing it in all of its glory. As this would be the family’s first Easter without her baba, Natalia has decorated an egg in her memory. “The egg had turned out so well, Natalia had kept it in her pocket so she could look at it whenever she wanted.” It is spring and warm enough to stay outside; inside the farmhouse, her mother is baking paska (Ukrainian Easter bread), and expert bakers know that the bread can fall if children are loud or doors slam. So, Natalia gazes into the sky, remembering her baba, missing her terribly, when rain starts to fall. This time, the raindrops become spring flowers, and once again, the flowers become a green babushka “that covered her hair and warmed her ears despite the brisk breeze.”
As in the story of Ukrainian Christmas, Natalia once again finds herself in her grandmother’s village just in time to hear people singing Khrystos Voskres! (Christ is Risen!) as they walk in procession to church in the early hours of the morning. Of course, Baba is on her way to church, too, but time has passed since Natalia’s Christmas Eve adventure. Baba is now a young lady, and following the Easter liturgy and during the traditional blessing of food baskets (after which people can end their 40 day fast and enjoy that paska), Natalia notices that Baba has her eye on a very handsome young man. In Baba’s basket is a special pysanka, and she has made it with great care. “Baba’s going to give it to that boy!” Natalia realized. “She must really like him.” But in her nervousness, Baba drops the egg! However, Natalia comes to the rescue: she places her own special pysanka in the grass (in Ukraine, and even at some churches in Canada, Easter basket blessing takes place outdoors), and by some miracle, Baba sees the egg and gives it to the boy that she likes. When Natalia wakes from her reverie, it is time for her to help her mother assemble their Easter basket in time for blessing at church on the next day. At Christmas, Natalia received a carved wooden chest that had belonged to Baba. She placed her Christmas babushka in that box, and now, she has one from her Easter adventure.
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.