Baboushka and The Three Kings, the 1961 Caldecott Medal recipient written by Ruth Robbins and illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov, retells a traditional Russian folktale. In this story an old lady meets the three kings as they are headed to meet the Christ Child and invites them in to eat and sleep. They refuse, saying that they must hurry along their journey, but invite the woman to join them in their quest. She agrees to accompany them the next morning, but the kings, unable to wait any longer, continue on their way.
As the lady relaxes that evening it dawns on her how important this baby must be ,and she sets out early in the morning to find the kings. She continued to travel in search of the Child, but, never finding Him, she continues to search each year to this day.
Although it is a simple folktale, I found deep Biblical meaning in this book. First, the kings’ stopping at the old lady’s house almost parallels a believer’s stopping to share the Gospel in a door-to-door ministry. Next, the urgency with which the kings searched for Jesus is an image of how Christians should persevere to find out more about Christ Jesus. Finally, when the woman was realized later that she should go search for the Child, I was reminded of the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – As well as I liked the story, the art was what earned this book the award, and that, I felt, was inferior. The simple pictures look as if they were done with a child’s marker. Even though my artistic abilities are lacking, I believe that I could have drawn these pictures.
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – These pictures, although not spectacular, did help to tell the story well.
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”- The style of the overall story was not what I would have expected, but the Russian-influenced style of the three kings with huge beards and pointy hats, was entertaining.
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each of these literary aspects was easily understood through the pictures, except that the illustrations did little to portray mood in the characters.
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children and I enjoyed reading this book together, and I appreciated the great opportunity it provided to explain Epiphany to them and to discuss when Christmas is celebrated in other cultures.