Monday, October 26, 2009

Rechenka's Eggs

TITLE: Rechenka's Eggs
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Patricia POLACCO
PUBLIHSER: Philomel Books
AGE GROUP: 4-8 years.

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 — 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!

18 comments:

Sheela said...

aha! Meera, another grandma tale - now i am connecting the dots with Abuela's Weave!

Your desceription of "balance in the elements of reality and imagination", "intricate folkloric art" reminds me of my childhood favorite Russian book (translated in English) called "Ladushki Ladushki" - hunted and found a used copy for Ana as it is sadly out of print - which perhaps I could add to our review here? maybe tonight?

Praba said...

That was lovely M.

Yes, I have seen this book at my daughter's school library and even watched a video...where Patricia herself talks about and demonstrates the intricate art of painting of eggs - if I remember correctly - Pysansky is the name of the egg painting art in the Ukraine region.

A very neat festive tale, M, beautifully reviewed - great for Easter! Patricia is one of our favorites.

Ok - speaking of chain reaction... - M and Sheela - You'll know why in a couple of days... I am part of the grandma tale club...word of caution - mine are not as folktalish... :-)

meera sriram said...

You got it Sheela - Abuela-Babushka, and our similar trickster tales, as I read yours I was pleasantly surprised at our back-back coincidence:)I am sure reading the rare nostalgic find is going to be a good experience for you and Ana.
Praba, yes, I really like her coherent writing, very easy and simple on kids. Can't wait to hear your grandama tale:)

Kodi's Mom said...

decorating eggs! and all I can think of are those gorgeous, exquisite Faberges.
I'll have to get this book for the artwork. thanks, Meera!

Poppins said...

Ah Russia - somehow was always the place of my dreams as a child, perhaps the India-Soviet relationship those days - I even had a russian pen friend :)

Grandma tales are the best!

sathish said...

meera, amazing story. I always wonder how these authors can weave in subtle feelings and emotions in a simple story. There probably lies in the art of story telling!

ranjani.sathish said...

Meera
An awesome pick and a beautiful review ! I have never read any book from a Russian background, so I am very eager to get hold of it and read to Sooraj. If I can feel the emotions of the story from your review, how would it be when I actually read the book myself ?!!

Hema said...

Dear team ST...
This week has been wonderful what with all these stories from all over the world. I can't wait for the day when my two year old and I will read all these together! I am already looking forward to tomorrow's book!
Regards
Hema

ssstoryteller said...

i can only read the review and yearn to get hold of these books..one day, someday...
Is it possible to have all the reviews done this week linked into a single URL..just asking so that i can access all at once and not have to keep going back and forth...

ssstoryteller said...

I just realised many of you here are in Bangalore...
and i have just moved out from Bangalore to Kanpur..hahha..
its great to meet so many people who are adding value to life..
thanks Saffron tree members...
every review is eagerly waited for, and greedily lapped up!

ChoxBox said...

Wow Meera! Truly magical! Loved your review too :)

ChoxBox said...

Ranjani: We have a book that has a bunch of folk-tales from Eastern Europe. Will dig it out and lend it to you (after permission from its owner :))

Poppy said...

@SSStoryteller: We thank you for your sweet comments!
here's the url for all the reviews at one location:
http://www.saffrontree.org/search/label/CROCUS%202009

P.S basically you just click on the tag names CROCUS 2009 at the bottom of each post and voila. You can use this trick to get age grouped books as well, such 3-6 etc!

meera sriram said...

Thank you all!
Praba: Yes, Pysanky it is, an important part of Easter celebration in Ukraine.
Kodi's mom: The author Patricia, when she is not writing, is painting eggshells, an art passed down in her family I read. So, you can imagine the quality of her illustrations!
Poppins & Ranjani, its our first book with a Russian backdrop as well:) I already have picked out another one to read, its called " Little daughter of the snow" by Arthur Ransome, a retold Russian classic.
Sathish, Choxbox & Hema, thank you!
SSStoryteller, taking the time to write to us means so so so much to us! Thanks!
Poppy, thanks for acting real quick:)

utbtkids said...

I find myself telling that I will put this book on hold from the library :)

Meera so want to experience the art of egg painting, through this book of course :)

Poppy, spl bond with Russia :) Same same. I remember I dad used to susbcribe a russian children's magazine for me. Something like Sasha, I forget the name.

meera sriram said...

Oh..Oh..Iknow, Its MISHA utbt!!!Mom subscribed it for my sister and me..this was probably in the early 80s?? wow wow...

ChoxBox said...

I remember MISHA!

Kodi's Mom said...

MISHA, it is! I couldn't wait to the month to begin so it would come in the mail...and when it did, I'd finish it in one day & wait for the next month...I miss you, Misha :(

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