Baba’s Babushka

5 January 2011

Baba’s Babushka
by Marion Mutala
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Karen Lawson
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-53-8

Baba’s Babushka is a delightful Christmas tale written by Saskatchewan author Marion Mutala. She has created a charming story that celebrates her proud Ukrainian heritage and lives up to the subtitle of her book, “A Magical Ukrainian Christmas.”

Natalia, the star of this lively story, is a little Ukrainian girl living in rural Saskatchewan who is taken, with the reader, on an enchanted journey back in time. Although Natalia is excited, like all children, about Christmas, her joy is marred by a deep sadness. This will be the first Christmas that her beloved grandmother, Baba, will not be present to share in the fun, festivities, and traditions of Christmas with her family.

One day a brightly-coloured red and blue babushka, or headscarf, appears out of nowhere that reminds Natalia of the one her Baba used to wear. Mysteriously transported to another time and place, Natalia finds herself sharing a meal with a strangely familiar family who perform all the same Christmas Eve traditions her own family does. Though she is unsure why, Natalia feels very close and connected to another little girl at the table who is about her age and just happens to be wearing a brightly-coloured babushka. After a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal and the local church service, Natalia is just as magically transported back to the present and her own home, where she wakes just in time for Christmas morning. She finds a picture of her Baba on the table beside her bed with the red and blue babushka tucked underneath it. Who was the little girl she spent Christmas Eve with? Could it have been her own dear Baba?

The author’s broad understanding and knowledge of Ukrainian culture forms the solid foundation of this book. Words from the Ukrainian language sprinkled generously throughout the pages give the story an authentic feel, but not so much as would confuse a young reader (with the necessary help of an adult). Traditions are explained in a simple, endearing style that will speak well to children, even those unfamiliar with Ukrainian heritage. The colourful detailed illustrations by Wendy Siemens are a beautiful complement to the author’s flowing story.

Readers that are not well versed in Ukrainian culture will enjoy learning about this important ethnic group who made such an influential contribution to our province. Marion Mutala has written what will surely become a Christmas classic and find a beloved spot in every child’s library. Keep an eye out in the future for more books by Mutala celebrating the Ukrainian heritage of Saskatchewan. If the first book is any indication, we’re in for a treat.


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