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Worth the Candle
DIY enthusiasm wasn't very widespread when Rachenka's Eggs came out in 1988-those pre-Martha times-and we'd guess this book was many people's first exposure to the elaborate painted eggs the book celebrates. In these post-Martha times, we're likely to mistake these eggs as Ukrainian wax-resist dyed eggs-a process even more complicated than the one the book's grandmotherly protagonist uses.
Babushka meticulously paints eggs all winter for sale at a spring festival. One day she befriends a wild goose who has been injured by a hunter. The goose, newly dubbed Rachenka, lays an egg each day for Babuska's breakfast and is a welcome companion-except on the day her wings knock over an entire basket of precious decorated eggs. There's no reason left for Babushka to go to the festival. Until-miracle of miracles!-Rachenka starts to lay eggs whose shells already are miraculously colored with beautiful designs.
Rachenka's Eggs, a springtime and Easter perennial, pretty much launched Patricia Polacco's career, a long and productive one that has been marked by a remarkable consistency in both content and artwork. Focusing on family, farm animals, and empathy for those who struggle against handicaps or discrimination, her stories tug heartstrings in a way that almost invariably comes down just right. (That would be at the point where readers feel genuinely moved, and one step shy of the point at which they'd begin to gag on sentimentality.) Her blend of bright, textile-inspired color often paired with plain pencil-drawings has made her artwork some of the most distinctive in the children's lit universe.
All this would be enough to recommend Polacco, but these days we also appreciate the fact that old people in her books are unabashedly old. They have wrinkles and warts and gray hair, not eyes tightened by facelifts and supernatural chestnut hair. An unusual byproduct of Polacco's two-decade-long career may become her consistent affection for the very elderly. In the same period, society has bent over so much to accommodate the vibrancy of Baby Boomer grandparents that real aging almost gets short shrift. Babushka, who could be no one's object of pity, is now a role model for those who act their advanced years.