Tell Me a Story Babushka

Reycraft. Oct. 2022. 24p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781478875819.
Gr 2-5–This Ukrainian story opens with a little girl asking her baba, or grandmother, to tell her a fairy tale, specifically one with “a princess and monsters.” Baba then shares a story about a little girl whose family was taken and separated by the Soviet army and then imprisoned in a camp in Siberia. In the children’s room there, it is discovered that matryoshka dolls are hidden beneath their mattresses. Within these nesting dolls is a written rescue plan to be followed at dawn. “What came next for the little girl? Where was she going?” the granddaughter asks, to which Baba replies “What would come, she had no idea. Maybe in the new place there would be no gunshots and hunger.” It is later revealed, of course, that the little girl in the story was Baba, and that she is now able to spend time with her granddaughter as “a happy old lady.” Baba’s words are accompanied by exquisitely detailed illustrations. What stands out most is the depiction of the “monsters” as the Soviet army invades Ukraine. The faces and bodies are sharp, rigid, and menacing shapes with dark hues of brown and blue to help readers understand the horror that occurred for Ukrainians during the early 20th century. A beautiful, but heartbreaking, tale of survival told through the eyes of a grandmother who endured what became known as the Holodomor, this story belongs in elementary collections, but may be too dark for early primary students.
VERDICT This is a timely lesson that exemplifies how often, miserably, history repeats itself.

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