By Catherine Flores
“ We can never be truly happy without the love that unites us together as one”
Babushka dolls are a source of fascination for children – I have two sets at home that my children and visitors to our house continue to play with and one of my earliest, most vivid memories of school, is exploring a set of Russian dolls that lived in my infant classroom.
The Story of Babushka is that of a very special Russian Matroyshka, or nesting doll and her five bodies, in search of the meaning of life.
Each of Babushka’s bodies represents a different unique quality or characteristic that when fit together, make the Babushka doll ‘whole.’
Antonia is the outermost body of Babushka and represents her beautiful physical appearance.
Loretta is the body of riches and represents Babushka’s wealth.
Paula represents all Babushka’s talents
Viola represents Babushka’s wisdom.
Mary, Babushka’s innermost body is the embodiment of love. She represents Babushka’s heart and inner voice.
Babushka’s five bodies leave the safety and security of their forest home and go their separate ways, each in search of individual fulfillment and purpose in life. However, this comes with many challenges to overcome and there are lessons to be learned. Mary, the final doll left to embark on her journey realises they have made a big mistake. She recognises that the dolls can never be truly happy without each other, signifying that the individual traits that make up a person’s character are no good in isolation and must work together in harmony. Ultimately, it falls to Mary to mend Babushka’s broken heart by reuniting the dolls and make her complete again. As with all good Fables, Babushka reflects on the important lessons she has learnt.
Catherine Flores’ Story of Babushka could be used as a perfect teaching text in the Personal, Social, Citizenship and Economic Education Curriculum for older primary school pupils. It teaches key messages, such as ‘money is not everything,’ ‘know your value’ and ‘appearances can be deceiving’ which cleverly correspond to one of Babushka’s bodies and in turn, the sections of the book. There are also some deeper, more complex ideas that are explored in the story, such as deception, work-life balance and exploitation which would need careful explanation from an adult. This is the beauty of this book; there are many layers of meaning that can be enjoyed and appreciated as appropriate to the reader’s level of understanding.
Ana Beatriz Marques’ illustrations are simply beautiful and of a highly original style. Charming woodland creatures and delightful fireside scenes ensure that this book feels like authentic folklore, whilst industrial images give it a modern twist.
The Story of Babushka is a lovely reminder to both adults and children of the wonderful layers of unique qualities that are nested within all of us making us complete.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC in exchange for my review