The babushka doll, also known as a matryoshka or Russian nesting doll, is a traditional Russian toy first made over 100 years ago. The doll has come to symbolise Russian folk culture, as well as the complex and beautiful layers of women. Babushka dolls are made of wood and painted in bright colours and patterns.
Each babushka is comprised of many round dolls, each a little smaller than the last. They separate at the middle so that each doll can be placed inside the one before it. There are some babushka dolls with as many as fifty dolls nested inside.
This is the story of one very special babushka doll and her five bodies.
There was the outermost body, Antonia. She was pure beauty and everyone who saw her raved about her good looks. Beneath that body of beauty hid the second body, Loretta, who was richly adorned. She wore gold ornaments, and her robe was decorated with many different gems that glittered like the ocean on a sunny day. Hidden within the rich body was Paula the body that held all the talents. Whatever Paula did, she was sure to succeed. She knew how to work and always did so with joy and determination. Under the shell of the talented body was Viola, the body of wisdom. Viola knew a lot about the world and learned very quickly. She was always full of brilliant ideas and had clever solutions for every problem. The last body, the innermost and smallest of all, was Mary, the embodiment of love. Mary had a compassionate heart and was very helpful. She had the special ability to dry tears and mend broken hearts.
One day Babushka decides she wants to find out the meaning of life, so she sends her bodies out of the forest and into the world to search for answers.
Guadalupe H, Librarian: 5*****
“This story gently introduces young readers to the inevitable existential crisis that most people experience at some point in their life. One wonders about the meaning of life and how one can fulfill such a purpose. The Babushka is made up of five women each with a particular characteristic: beauty, wealth, talent, wisdom, and love. They each go their own way to what they think will fulfill their own separate purpose of life. The Babushka learns additional truths regarding a work-life balance, self-value, and the power of the collective on this journey, which is a positive learning experience for readers. The illustrations contribute to the story like a wind guiding someone to a destination. The language is appropriate and not challenging for its target audience. Ultimately, the creative use of the Babushka in this story is employed promoting life lessons that promote inner growth for middle-grade readers.”
Sonali A, Reviewer 5*****
This is such a lovely book! …perfect for children to find purpose in their life. It has valuable lessons. Complex themes simplified in a lovely story. I love the illustrations. It will be easy for little ones to connect with the characters and the story. It is so full of hope. Teaches no problem is too big. Every problem can be overcome. Teaches how everyone is unique and have different qualities. Steeped in tradition. An engaging read. Very well written and heartwarming. I definitely recommend it.
Erin H, Librarian 5*****
Reading this book was accompanied with the feeling of playing with a set of Babushka dolls. There was a true sense of taking the dolls apart, studying them, assigning them unique qualities and then bringing them back together again. As a set of 5 dolls, within the story, they are all unique and have different qualities to offer the world and the last doll allows them all to go and find their way in life- leaving her behind with the heart. All choosing different directions, it is not until they are all gone that the last doll finds her own purpose in life and goes on her own journey of discovery. As the set of dolls is meant to be together, so too are the dolls in the story. Having learned new lessons on life and discovering that not all is as it seems, they come together to feel complete once more. Completely heartwarming with a soul steeped in tradition, there is much to share and enjoy with this beautifully illustrated story. Likely to engage and enchant readers, young and old.
Olivia S, Reviewer 4.5****
I’ve always been fascinated by babushka dolls and love how beautiful they are designed and painted. This story follows the babushka which is made up of five women each with their own personalities. The outer layer is beautiful, the next layer is wealth, then the talented babushka, followed by the wise babushka, and finally the innermost babushka and the guiding one, the loving babushka. Each of the babushkas set out to discover their purpose in life. I think this book is perfect to read to children. Within it you will find many valuable lessons on self-worth, helping others, outer appearances and most importantly, that you cannot have one ‘main’ characteristic that defines your whole personality. I loved how it is the innermost babushka of love that guides the other babushka dolls and ultimately brings them together again.
Jillian C, Reviewer 4****
The Story of Babushka was such a quick, charming read. The artwork was what drew me in, but the story is what made me stay. It’s really easy to follow and not a story that I’ve seen before, so it was super enjoyable! The story is honestly quite heartwarming and full of good life lessons, and I think this would make a great read for students and kids, either to read with someone or by themselves. I even really enjoyed it myself, so I’d also recommend this to anyone who is looking for a charming, gorgeously illustrated, and heartwarming story.
Sierra D, Educator 4****
“Such a heartwarming story that has a lot of great lessons for children to learn from and enjoy.”
Kathleen M, Reviewer 4****
What a delightful story. Very well written and illustrated. I loved the tales and the lessons each taught.
Joy K, Educator 4****
This book has a lot of complex themes that will interest young readers. The book talks about how people can be multi-faceted and how individuals have layers to their personalities. Kids will probably be familiar with Russian nesting dolls so it will be easy for them to connect with the story. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are colourful, playful, and inviting. If I still taught in a classroom with younger students, I would share this book in a reading circle.
Aliyah P, Reviewer 4****
The Story of Babushka was more than intriguing to me, I have seen the little Russian nesting dolls many times over the years and think they are precious. The illustrations in this book should win an award they are so beautiful. The story seemed a bit complex for children, but I think that older ages ( around 10-13) could comprehend the messages. The story tackles many issues, with the overall intention of showing children that one main characteristic cannot be all that defines them. It got a bit political at times, but I think it did it tastefully. I would definitely recommend this to others.
Since quitting her full-time job at a branding communication agency in Zurich, Catherine has gone on to become a successful freelance designer and a children’s author. She lives on the small island of Madeira with her family, spending her time growing vegetables in her garden and working for clients around the world.