Baba’s Babushka Magical Ukrainian Adventures

Baba’s Babushka: Magical Ukrainian AdventuresWritten by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Amber Rees, Wendy Siemens, Olha TkachenkoPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$39.95  ISBN 9-781988-783611 Before one reads a single word of Baba’s Babushka, it’s evident that this  illustrated children’s book is far beyond the ordinary. The 175-page hardcover emanates quality, from the phenomenal production – including colourful, full-page illustrations opposite the text pages, each bordered in a Ukrainian embroidery design – to the heft of the paper used, the contributions of three skilled illustrators, the inclusion of Ukrainian recipes, and a glossary for the numerous Ukrainian words used in the text. The package is highly impressive … and then there are the four heartwarming, connected tales Mutala spins within the book.  Saskatchewan’s Mutala is already known for her award-winning, Ukrainian-themed children’s books, including More Baba’s, Please! and My Dearest Dido: A Holodomor Story, but this latest publication – essentially four books in one – is her tour de force. In each magical story, young Natalia – who lives on a farm near Hafford, SK – is whisked into her ancestral past when her recently-departed and much-loved grandmother’s (Baba’s) colourful babushka (head scarf) materializes – via flowers, swirling…

My Dearest Dido
Wood Dragon Books / 7 February 2020

My Dearest Dido: The Holodomor Storyby Marion MutalaPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Keith Foster$19.99              ISBN 978-1-989078-20-4 Marion Mutala’s My Dearest Dido: The Holodomor Story is a passionate account of the Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, known as the Holodomor. Based on actual events and documented eyewitness accounts, this story consists of correspondence between two fictional characters – Hanusia Hrabowa in Saskatoon and her grandfather, Dido Bohdan, in Hafford, SK, supplemented by Hanusia’s personal diary. As a class assignment to write about the Holodomor, Hanusia does her research using a primary source – her grandfather, or Dido, who survived the famine. Sixteen-year-old Hanusia starts writing to Dido, requesting his assistance, beginning each letter with “My Dearest Dido.”  Readers may find it odd that Hanusia chose to write letters when any sixteen-year-old would almost instinctively reach for her cell phone. But discussing such a sensitive subject over the phone would have been too difficult. Corresponding by letter would enable Dido to reread the contents, dwell upon Hanusia’s request, and gather his thoughts. Dido is reluctant at first – the memories are just too painful. As he starts to  open up, he becomes severely ill from…

My Buddy, Dido!

My Buddy, Dido! by Marion Mutala Published by Your Nickle’s Worth Publishing Review by Amanda Zimmerman $14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-23-9 Grandfathers are amazing people. Whether they play games, tell jokes, read stories, or simply snuggle their grandchildren, they are always sharing their love. In this delightful picture book, Marion Mutala reminds us why grandpas are such exceptional family members. My Buddy, Dido! is her 10th book, following her celebration of grandmothers in More Baba’s Please! With her background in Ukrainian children’s tales (her Baba’s Babushka series are award-winning), she has a great grasp of the fundamentals, introducing readers to Dido, the Ukrainian grandfather. Before the tale even starts, a full page graphic showcases ‘grandpa’ in other languages with bright, bold colours. As for presenting a new term, Dido is so casually included in the pages that both children and parents alike will believe they’ve always known it. There is only one other word in the tongue- Holushki– and, flipping to the back, a recipe for the soup awaits. Marion also strays from the regular story format, choosing instead to go over a Dido’s characteristics in rhyming verses: “Who listens to me when I’m mad? Who consoles me when I’m sad? Who…

More Babas, Please!

More Babas, Please! by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Olha Tkachenko Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9781927756928 Award-winning author Marion Mutula’s latest book, More Babas, Please! is a happy celebration of grandmothers. All grandmothers everywhere. “Big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall. Curly-haired, straight-haired, wig-wearing, bald.” The rhyming has an almost sing-song rhythm which seems so natural that you instinctively know that a lot of work has gone into making it seem so effortless! The layout is classic and clean with lots of white space and large type, perfect for early readers and grown-ups with bad eye sight. Each left page features a beautiful full page colour illustration by Ukranian-born illustrator Olha Tkachenko. Although the book celebrates grandmothers of all nationalities, Mutala’s love for her Ukranian heritage and her babas is a constant thread throughout the book. She uses Ukranian words like holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and dyakuyu (thank you) and for non-Ukranian speakers there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book. There’s even a recipe for Baba Sophie’s Borscht! The book gave me a warm feeling as I reflected on my own grandmother. It speaks to all the good that grandmothers do…

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Wedding

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Wedding By Marion Mutala Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Alison Slowski $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-06-5 Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Wedding is an engrossing picture book, rendered in beautiful detail by author Marion Mutala and artist Amber Rees, that tells the heartwarming tale of a young woman named Natalia. Natalia, aided by the memory of her grandmother, goes on a magical journey to learn more about her family’s – and people’s – rich history. During Natalia’s walk down memory lane, she visits all the important moments which involved her grandparents’ time together as young people. The story details her grandparents’ courtship, including the meeting of their two families before and during their seven-day Ukrainian wedding. Mutala uniquely and accurately depicts the Ukrainian customs that are special to a couple’s wedding, such as the gift- or pumpkin-giving before a couple agrees to marry, and the giving of sheshkeh, pinecones made of dough, to welcome their guests in their village to their wedding. Most special of all, this book incorporates the tradition of the korovai, the traditional braided wedding bread, into its mention of the festivities. The inclusion of a korovai recipe in the back…

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter by Marion Mutala Illustrated by Wendy Siemens Review by Michelle Shaw $ 14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-70-5 Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter, the enchanting sequel to the award-winning Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Christmas is sure to delight Marian Mutala’s many fans. This time it’s spring, and we join Natalia as she is once again swept magically away to a far off land for another uniquely Ukrainian adventure. Natalia is sent outside while the paska, the Easter bread her mother is baking, rises. She’s meant to be collecting the eggs but instead finds herself reflecting on her beloved Baba, her grandmother, who has recently died. Suddenly she feels raindrops brush her cheeks. The raindrops turn into a babushka that covers her hair and then she’s off… “up and away, high in the sky… racing through time and space”. Natalia finds herself in a crowd of people in the early morning in front of a village church. It’s Easter and Natalia is caught up in the celebrations as she joins the procession of people carrying candles, as they follow the priest through the darkness singing Khrystos voskres! (Christ is risen!)” . This time when she catches…

Baba’s Babushka

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…