Having travelled to the fabulous country of Russia I was immediately drawn to this book. On my travels in Russia I visited a lady just outside of a town called Kungur who made the most fantastic gingerbread and incredible Babushka dolls. It was from this lady that I learnt all about the meaning of the Babushka and it’s legend and folklore in Russian culture.
The Story of Babushka tells the journeys of five dolls who each set out to find their own purpose in life. Each doll has its own special quality; Antonia is beautiful, Loretta epitomises riches and wealth, Paula is full of talent and success, Viola is the brains; intelligent and wise, and Mary is loving.
Babushka was content with her life in the forest but would often wonder about life - its meaning and her purpose. Babushka had some of the answers,
“The brook’s purpose was to flow, and the birds’ purpose was to sing.”
Babushka wants to find the meaning of her life and so she sends her five bodies off to find their true purpose in life. Guided by Mary, her inner voice, the Babushka gradually lets each doll go and as they venture from their forest home in search of answers, each doll has a clear life goal.
But life is never simple and as each doll embarks on a voyage of self-discovery they are exposed to some harsh life-lessons. Feeling at a loss, the innermost doll, Mary, heads off in search of her own purpose guided by the wind. And slowly she is guided back to her four other parts and the Babushka doll becomes whole once again.
The Story of Babushka is an endearing and important fable for all ages. At times, the language has a poetic quality and I was swept away into what felt like a fairy-tale wonderland. I love the message in this book - you are not defined by one particular characteristic, there are many parts that make your whole. There are valuable lessons on friendship and love, appearances, wealth and happiness (money can’t buy happiness), valuing yourself and helping others. It is all of these bodies that form the whole Babushka and whilst they may each have their own purpose they are at their strongest and happiest when they are together.
The illustrations of the dolls are beautiful - the intricate designs, the attention to detail, the size. They are exactly what I think of when I picture Babushka dolls in my head and think back to all the wonderful ones I saw in Russia. Each doll is unique with its own beauty - inner and outer.
A book that is worthy of being read by and shared with all ages. The messages and lessons in this book will be appreciated by readers of 9+ whilst younger children will delight in the beautiful artwork and will enjoy the story without delving deeper into the more complex issues and morals. A read that will generate plenty of discussion by readers both young and old.
With huge thanks to Catherine Flores and Netgalley for the ARC.