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)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Because new life emerges from an egg when the chick hatches out, eggs have long been used as a symbol for the start of new life.  And Christians further view it as a symbol of the Resurrection - as it lays dormant, it contains a new life sealed within it, just as Christ's body was resurrected to new life from the sealed tomb.

Another reason that eggs are given as gifts at Easter comes from an ancient Eastern Orthodox tradition:  after the Ascension of Jesus, Mary Magdalene went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with the words, "Christ has risen," whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, "Christ has no more risen than that egg is red." After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red.  To this day, after our Easter - or Pascha - service, we Orthodox Christians receive hard-boiled eggs that have been dyed red.  We crack them against each other's as we proclaim, "Christ is Risen!"

"Pysanky" are Ukrainian Easter eggs that have been decorated using a wax-resist method with dyes - the symbolic folk designs are "written on" the eggs with beeswax by using a stylus (kystka).  This method is used in many eastern European countries, not just the Ukraine.  Many women like to make Pysanky during Lent (or Holy Week) to be given away at Easter.  Traditionally, they were made at night, when the children were asleep.

Here are some great books you won't want to miss about Pysanky Eggs...and at the end of this post, I'll share some links, so you and your children can make your own.  I think it's a great Lenten activity - it teaches patience and you'll have some beautiful eggs for your basket or to give as gifts!

RECHENKA'S EGGS by Patricia Polacco. An old woman named Babushka always wins first prize in the Easter festival for her exquisitely painted Ukrainian eggs. When she finds a wounded goose outside her house, Babushka takes her in, cares for her until she is strong again, and names her Rechenka. The goose lays an egg each morning for the old woman, but as she begins to heal, she flies around, knocking over Babushka's jars of colored paints and breaking all her Easter eggs. Babushka is miserable, until Rechenka miraculously lays brilliantly colored eggs; the old woman wins first prize once more... Intricate designs and opulent colors shade every page, right down to the onion-shaped domes and peasants' festival garments. -Publisher's Weekly (Ages 4-8)
Rechenka's Eggs (Paperstar)

THE MAGIC BABUSHKA by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes. Nadia longs to make the intricately decorated eggs called Pysanky but the fine detail work is too much for her weak eyes. An encounter with the magical butterfly woman, Baba Babochka, results in the young woman being given a magical kerchief, or babushka, with the warning that she reveal her gift to no one. With it, she is able to transform plain white eggs into elaborately decorated ones that gain the attention of the Tsarina, and she is summoned to the palace to produce Pysanky on demand. Once again, Baba Babochka comes to the rescue, and Nadia is finally able to make beautiful eggs on her own. The full-page watercolor-and-gouache illustrations suggest the colors and designs of pysanky in the bright red, blue, and orange the artist uses in her illustrations and in the detailed border designs. -Library School Journal. (grades 1-4)
The Magic Babushka

NINA'S TREASURES by Stefan Czernecki, illustrated by Timothy Rhodes. A hen named Nina provides eggs for "a little grandmother" named Katerina, who trades the eggs and flowers from her garden for their daily needs. An unusually severe winter finds the pair virtually without food, and Katerina feeds Nina "her precious flower seeds for the spring planting." With the advent of spring, their plight is relieved when Nina--full of flower seeds--lays some spectacularly beautiful eggs. Katerina trades them to replenish her cupboards, and the old woman and Nina are happy and comfortable "the rest of their days." Recalling the resourceful hen, the village grandmothers decorate eggs each spring. -Publisher's Weekly.   (Ages 4-8.)

THE BIRDS' GIFT, A UKRANIAN EASTER STORY, retold by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina. This folktale describes the origin of pysanky, the process of decorating Easter eggs with intricate, colorful patterns. Katrusya and her grandfather are walking in freshly fallen snow when they discover a flock of tiny golden birds that has been overcome by the sudden cold. They rescue as many as possible from the drifts and stuff them inside their coats, then hurry back to the village for assistance. Soon everyone rushes out to help, and the priest opens the church to shelter the animals and preaches to his congregation that with every chirp the birds worship God with perfect faith. Shortly before spring arrives, the feathered creatures clamor to be released, saddening the villagers, who have grown to love them. Easter comes, and Katrusya and the other children find gorgeous, brilliantly colored eggs in the grass. When the people wonder at their source, the priest points to the golden birds, now perched above, and explains that these eggs are their Easter gifts. As each one is different and precious, he says, so is every living creature in God's eyes. -School Library Journal. (Ages 4-8)
The Bird's Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story


Make paper Pysanky Egg decorations from Orthodox Christian Craft Supply.

Order this DVD from Archangel Books on how to decorate Pysanky Eggs. Step-by-step for beginners.

Or, you can learn from this website: LEARNPYSANKY.COM

You can order Pysanky kits from Chinaberry or HearthSong, two of my favorite online sites for gifts, books, and toys.

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