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"The strikingly effective pictures are distinctive in design and rich in color." Booklist, ALA
Posted May 16, 2001
Baboushka and the Three Kings won the Caldecott medal as the best illustrated American children's book in 1961. Stylistically, these images will remind you of stained glass windows and the abstraction of Egyptian murals with Byzantine faces. The pages are done in five colors only (black plus blue, yellow, an orange-red, and green). The result gives the book a religious tone that makes you imagine you are reading from an illuminated manuscript done during the middle ages. All that is missing are the gold highlights. The story picks up on the Biblical tale of the three kings coming from the East following the star to the birth of Christ. The three kings have lost their way in the snow in Russia, and ask the old peasant lady, Baboushka, to help them. After hearing of their pilgrimage, she wants to finish her chores first, and spend the night resting in her warm cottage before starting out. She invites the three kings and their retainers to join her for the night. They politely decline, not wanting to miss His birth. The next morning, Baboushka repents and decides to bring gifts to the Christ child as well. But so much snow has fallen that she cannot find their trail. She goes from village to village hoping for word of the three kings, but finds nothing. Eventually, she gives her gifts to the children along the way. 'And it is said that every year, at the season when the birth of the Child was first heralded, Baboushka renews her search across that land with new hope.' 'And it is said that every year little children await the coming of Baboushka.' 'They find joy in the poor but precious gifts she leaves behind her in the silent night.' The book points out rather well that when opportunity knocks, one had better take immediate action or possibly rue the consequences for a lifetime. But the repentence can still yield important benefits for the proscrastinator and those who know her or him. After you and your child know this story well, you should share with your child examples you have seen where waiting was a mistake. To balance that message, also share some stories where waiting was a good idea. In this way, you can help your child prepare to perceive and act on good opportunities that require quick action. This book obviously will raise the question of what this has to do with Santa Claus from your child, so be ready with your answer for that, as well. Be generous as you can possibly be in your support of others and always active in seeking God's truth. Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
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Posted December 26, 2007
My husband is from Russia so my 4 year old received more than one copy of this story from various family members. Although I liked the idea of teaching my daughter the lesson of 'trusting your heart', my husband said this was NOT a common tale as is implied and he did not like it. My daughter also became very distressed that the old woman never found baby Jesus. She refuses to accept that the nice lady who welcomed strangers was not rewarded for changing her mind and deciding to honor God. We had to return the book because she insisted - 'God forgives, Mommy, and he wouldn't have left the nice lady in the snow forever...That only happens to people like mean Marley.'
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