Sunday, September 15, 2013


Baboushka and the Three Kings, Ruth Robbins & Nicholas Sidjakov, Parnassus Press, 1960, 22 pp

This retelling of a Russian Christmas tale won the Caldecott Award for 1961. The illustrations, ink pen with a wash of primary colors, look almost like cartoons.

Baboushka is busy cleaning her small hut when she is visited by the Three Kings who tell her they "have been following a bright star to a place where a Babe is born." They ask Babouhska to join them in the search but she will not leave until her cleaning is done.

The next day she attempts to follow them but heavy snow has covered their trail. Though she goes from village to village she never finds the Kings or the Babe.

The folk tale says that every year children await the coming of Baboushka who leaves "poor but precious gifts" behind her during her yearly search. She is a Russian Santa Claus.

I am so grateful to the Burbank Public Library where I have found every Caldecott winner since 1940. 

I've no idea why this book took the prize in 1961. It is not remotely an American story; the illustrations are perhaps avant garde for the times but didn't impress me. Maybe they wanted toddlers to not be too afraid of the Russians.

(Baboushka and the Three Kings is available in library binding and paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

1 comment:

  1. Well, baboushka means grandma, so that's definitely a Communist take on Santa Claus.