Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Happy Mother's Day!  The first time I ever saw Russian nesting dolls, or "matryoshkas", I fell in love with them.  Maybe because they look so motherly.  In fact, the word matryoshka is literally "little matron".  The dolls were originally made to symbolize motherhood -  specifically the mothers of large peasant families who are well fed - leading to the portly figure of the doll and her "family" inside of her!

Nesting dolls were first made in China in the early 1800's (traditional Chinese nesting boxes had been started there hundreds of years earlier).  In the 1890's, when a group of Russian artists began reviving native culture and folk traditions, the idea found its way to Russia.
Shop full of matryoshkas at Izmaylovo Market, Moscow

Artist Sergei Malyutin designed the first set of Russian nesting dolls, probably inspired by a Japanese example.  He made the largest doll a peasant girl with a babushka (kerchief) on her head.  The dolls, carved and turned on a lathe by a master wood-carver, were then painted in bright colors.  Many regions of Russia - each developing its own particular style - took up the art, inspired by Malyutin's first matryoshka.  Most of the dolls are maidens, but some sets have families, animals, or characters (like St. Nicholas).

3 GIVEAWAYS: To celebrate my 3rd Blog-iversary!
Leave a comment here on today's post and on any other future blogs I post about Russia throughout May to be entered to win any one (1) of the items below.  Three (3) people will be chosen.  Giveaway ends on May 30, 2013 at midnight PST. Winners announced May 31, 2013.

#1 Remember the cute little matryoshka luggage tag I posted about, here?
#2 The Littlest Matryoshka, (1999) by Corinne Demas Bliss, illustrations by Kathryn Brown. (ages 3-7) Click HERE to read all about the making of this book on Corinne's website. Go to The Littlest Matryoshka website to see activities and games related to the book!
#3 How about these cute Matryoshka Measuring Spoons?  Perfect for you and your little bakers!


 The Magic Nesting Doll (2000) by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrations by Laurel Long. Katya is given a magical nesting doll by her dying grandmother but is told that she can only use its magic three times. After entering a land of eternal winter, the young woman discovers a prince who has been turned into "living ice" through an enchantment. Aided in turn by a bear, wolf, and firebird that appear from inside the doll, Katya is able to restore the prince to his former self and destroy the villainous Grand Vizier. Gorgeous illustrations, reminiscent of Russian iconography! (Kindergarten - 3rd grade)
The Art of the Russian Matryoshka, (2008) by Rett Ertl, Rick Hibberd. (Mainly for parents, but if you have a child who's interested in these dolls, they'll love the photos!)  A MUST have for the obsessed, like me.  Hopefully you can find this at your local library (or buy it used), because it's pricey.
The Art of the Russian Matryoshka

MATRYOSHKA CRAFTS! (to make yourself!)...

Click here for a Bigu Handmade "How To" for Matryoshka bookmarks.

Want to  learn to make a Matryoshka fold-out CARD, found at Zakka Life?
I bet you can't resist crafting these mini-matryoshkas!
Sew to Speak has step-by-step instructions.

Make May "Matryoshka Month"!  Do you think you'll try any of these???  
Remember to leave a comment for a chance at one of my May Giveaways!  
And to all you Moms out there:
Poster available on etsy,  here.


  1. Ooooh, please enter me in your giveaway! This is so fun! I love Matryoshkas too! I have two sets. They are fun to look at and for little ones to play with. I just love their pretty faces and colors. A friend of mine gave me a set of blank ones to paint....I keep waiting to come up with the perfect idea! I need to just start painting ;)
    These books look great too, and I love all the little crafts!

  2. Oh, I LOVE Matryoshkas! I got my first real set for Christmas this year, and they never fail to make me smile. I also got the M-spoons. ;o) Those books are fabulous. I was so happy our library had them!

    I'd love to be entered in your giveaway!

  3. Replies
    1. Congratulations, Elizabeth! You're one of my winners!! :)
      Please email me your mailing address so I can ship you "The Littlest Matryoshka". (You'll find my email address in my blog profile.)

  4. We love matryoshkas here! I'd love to be entered into the giveaway. Thank you!

  5. the magic nesting doll is one of our all time favorite fairy tales! (their version of beauty and the beast- the lady and the lion- is also gorgeous.)

    1. Thank you for telling me about The Lady and the Lion! I hadn't heard of it. Just looked it up - you're right: it's GORGEOUS!!! I'll have to review it here soon. :)

    2. i hope you love it! the story isn't quite as good as the magic nesting doll, but the illustrations are amazing.

  6. Very cute! Enter me, please!

  7. Enter me please!
    Thank you!!
    Maria Bear

  8. Wow the Magic Nesting Doll book looks BEAUTIFUL!!! Lovely finds, thanks for sharing!!

  9. Those are all so beautiful and cute! I love the book "The Magic Nesting Doll." Also, I'm loving your posts on Pushkin!!!

  10. SO .... did our "Snow White" story come from Pushkin? Was his story the original?

    1. No - Pushkin was influenced by the Brothers Grimm. Their version was first. He was also very inspired by other European tales, such as those by Charles Perrault.

  11. Love the theme for May! I collected my first Matryoshka in San Francisco on my honeymoon in 1999. My girls also really enjoy them!

  12. I would love to win one! So many gems on your blog...in fact, we're going to the Getty Villa on our way back from Disneyland because of your post :)

  13. And don't forget matroshka cookies!!! I made a bunch of them using the # 8 cookie cutter. I have those measuring spoons (given to me by my sister)! ♥ The book "The Lady and the Lion" looks beautiful (I just looked it up on Amazon.com and it is available at the library here)!!!

  14. So lovely! I adore nesting dolls....perhaps partly because I'm the mama to four little girls myself :)

  15. How adorable. I found your blog through another blog. I love the premise. I read to my daughter. A LOT but sifting through book to find good ones is not always an easy task.

    1. Angie - I just chose your name for one of the May Giveaways! You won the Matryoshka Measuring Spoons. :)
      Send me your mailing address in an email, so I can ship them to you (you'll find my email address in the blog profile). Congrats - and I'm so happy you found my blog.

  16. Don't know if you're happy to post outside the US, but if so, I'd love to be entered into the giveaway.

  17. Good Early Morning from MS> USA, I really want to say, this web site is the most interesting, since the theme and content is the presentation of a part of the World American, sometimes read only through the media or a college friend...
    I am keeping the site on my Facebook page because the interest and unusual writings is quite fun and fact filled. I should say that I have had the experience of two Russians when I was a bit younger, the two seemed so interested in USA Culture and Economic growth that Russia has difficult periods of development.
    I enjoyed the piece you wrote on St. Xenia, and Smolensky Cemetery, Russia.
    My background is odd in that I have read a bit of information on the history of Smolensky during the Occupation of the Germans during WW II and horror of the Area being tossed back and forth between the National Socialist and the Soviet Era Government. The People suffered tremendously. The Soviets raided and desecrated the Orthodox and Jewish Temples so that the Icons and Religious Books/Scrolls (?) were treated as building materials and also burned. The Russians should not be our enemies, but the History of the Smolensky, Ukraine and area around these places have been decimated by periodic upheavals in the Governments controlling the areas. The people were nothing, yes ?
    So, thank you for considering these wonderful ideas of yours and developing the content into talk. Mrs. ATK