Baboushka and the Three Kings

Baboushka and the Three Kings

by Ruth Robbins, Nicolas Sidjakov (Illustrator)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Library Binding, 32 pages
Current Retail Price: $16.00
Not in stock

Baboushka and the Three Kings claims to be "adapted from a Russian folktale," but the truth is, there is nothing remotely Russian about it (the illustrator, Nicolas Sidjakov, is a Latvian-born American.) Baboushka's claim to be a Russian legend can be traced back to a poem by Edith M. Thomas in 1907. The original old woman who turns away three wise men is actually the Italian La Befana. No children of old Russia "await the coming of Baboushka" for the simple reason that she doesn't exist. (The children of Italy do, though, just under a different name.)

It's with this understanding that you will have to read the book, simply as a work of modern fiction. The story is simple. Old Baboushka (whose name means "grandmother" in Russian) takes pride in her clean home and her warm fire while the wind and snow rage outside. The three kings appear at her door and ask her to come help them find the Child (Jesus.) But the night is cold and Baboushka offers to follow them in the morning. They leave, and Baboushka follows, but she can't find them. Now she wanders the world eternally, looking for the Christ Child and leaving gifts under the pillows of other children.

A harsh punishment, perhaps, for a Baboushka. The theology is questionable—Jesus says those who seek Him will find Him. Maybe Baboushka is the only exception?

On its own merits, the book is quite a neat experiment in design. The font is a part of the illustrations as well, using odd spacing choices to match or accentuate the pictures. Sidjakov uses only primary colors, contrasting the cold blue outside with the warm red inside, and using yellow for joy. The story is written very vividly, with strong description. There's no harm in reading this as a modern Christmas tale, as long as you consider the other issues that weigh it down.

Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.

Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Worldview
Summary: Baboushka does not follow the wise men, and must now search in vain for the Christ Child.

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Babushka -- a Christmas Tale, but Not Russian
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