Book Review

Polacco, P. (1988).  Rechenka’s eggs.  New York:  Philomel Books.

This book would be a lovely read-aloud for third or fourth-grade students.  In public schools there might be concerns because the story centers around Easter traditions in “old” Russia, but taken from the cultural perspective I don’t think anyone would be offended. It might even be used to introduce a unit in art about egg-painting, since painted eggs in the Ukraine are so well known.

The story has magical qualities as well.  It tells of Babushka, a kind old lady, who painted beautiful eggs every year for the Easter Festival in Moscow.  One day she rescued a goose that had been shot by hunters and had an injured wing.  The bird’s wing mended, and it laid an egg every morning to repay Babushka’s kindness for taking it in.  In the meantime, Babushka painted the eggs she would enter in the contest in Moscow.  As the goose healed, it grew more adventurous.  A mishap occurred, and the goose knocked over the basket containing the fragile painted eggs, breaking all of them.  Babushka gave up hope of going to the festival, but then the goose began laying beautifully decorated eggs each morning until she had enough to take to the festival.  The day Babushka went to the festival was the day she freed Rechenka, the goose, to go back to her life in the world. The story ends on a kind of magical note that includes the Easter message of new life.

I loved this book.  I’ve always been fascinated by Ukrainian Easter eggs, and Polacco’s illustrations of them are exquisite.  Her pictures are rich with the colorful traditional clothing of the “old” Ukrainian culture.  Several places in the story, Babushka says that something is a “miracle.”  It could be an opportunity for the teacher to talk about the word and its meaning, and I think it would engender an interesting discussion among the children. 

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