NorthSouth. Sept. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735845077.
K-Gr 3–In this stunning retelling of a Russian folktale, an old widow lives alone in the forest, where some travelers have just told her that war has broken out. They invite her to go with them, as surely soldiers will be along soon. Varenka declines because she knows that others will be along who may need her comfort, and prays to God for protection: “Please build a wall around my house so that the soldiers will not see me.” In the days that follow, the sound of guns can be heard in the distance, while Varenka takes in newcomers, person or animal. As time passes, Varenka continues to be disappointed that there is no wall of protection, but she trusts God, and is pleasantly surprised in just how God shows up and protects her and her visitors; a snowstorm renders her home and its residents invisible to the soldiers who pass by without noticing. The resemblance to current-day displacement due to war is hauntingly similar. All the characters are white; the Byzantine-like faces are beautifully crafted in soft pastel colors, while Watts’s writing follows traditional folktale cadence.
VERDICT This unfamiliar tale has a simple message for uncertain times, and may be of comfort to have in the folktale section.

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