As I peruse the Easter displays at local bookstores, I’m reminded once again of the scarcity of excellent picture books relating to this holy day for Christians. In many ways, the egg, with its promise of life — or at least protein for sustaining the living — is a fitting symbol of Easter. Here’s a trio of terrific egg books that educators and families can use to celebrate the day.
San Souci, Robert D. The Talking Eggs. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, 1989. Ages 6-9.
This folktale was such a favorite with second-graders, I made it a tradition to read it aloud each year just before Easter. A Louisiana Creole version of the Cinderella story, it’s a rich brew of magic and poetic justice. Way long ago, there lived in a shack a haughty woman and her daughter, Rose, and stepdaughter, Blanche. Rose took after her lazy, mean-spirited mother, but Blanche was “sweet and kind and sharp as forty crickets.” One day Blanche set off to fetch water for the others, and she met a strange old woman who asked her for water. Blanche politely offers her a drink and is invited to visit the old woman’s house. Before she gets there, though, the old woman tells her she must promise not to laugh at anything she sees. When she reaches the woman’s house, Blanche sees strange, multicolored animals and a chicken house full of talking eggs. Because Blanche treats the woman respectfully and does exactly as she asks, she is rewarded with eggs that contain gold! silver! rubies! silk and satin and even a carriage to take her home in style.
Of course, when she arrives, Rose and her mother lust after those riches. The mother tells Rose she must seek out the old woman. Rose, however, acts rude and lazy when she encounters her, and her reward turns out to be very different. Pinkney’s vivid, detailed full-page illustrations won the Caldecott Honor, and add much humor to this folktale. Kindness triumphs — and makes for a read-aloud that every child should hear.
Polacco, Patricia. Rechenka’s Eggs. Putnam, 1996. Ages 6-9. In the Ukrainian tradition, Easter is the time for showing off brightly painted eggs. Babushka lives alone in her cottage in the country, outside of Moscow. Everyone admires her beautiful Easter eggs that she paints every winter and brings to the big Easter festival in Moscow. One day she rescues a wounded goose she names Rechenka, and nurses her back to health. Rechenka accidentally breaks Babushka’s eggs, and the elderly woman is dismayed. Rechenka, though, surprises her by laying 12 magnificent, decorated eggs in their place. Babushka takes the eggs to Moscow and wins another prize. When she returns, she finds the goose has flown but has left one her one last egg, which, when hatched, will become her companion. Polacco’s vibrant, detailed paintings, showing off the intricate patterns of Ukrainian-style Easter eggs, as well as colorful dresses, rugs, and the city’s onion-shaped domes, bring this tale to life. Winner of the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award. For another beloved Easter classic, consider Polacco’s Chicken Sunday.
Aston, Dianna Hutts. An Egg is Quiet. illus. by Sylvia Long. Chronicle, 2006. Ages 4-6.
“It sits there, under its mother’s feathers… on top of its father’s feet… buried beneath the sand. Warm. Cozy.” Aston captures the astounding variety of eggs with a simple format of offering brief, poetic statements, followed by details and gorgeous illustrations. Sylvia Long, whose Mother Goose book is one of the very best available, lends her remarkable talents to this nonfiction book. Her lovely watercolor paintings of 60 eggs range from tiny hummingbird eggs, to tubular dogfish eggs, and gloppy frog eggs. This book is a wonder to behold and lends itself well to science lessons for the young. Another use? Plop this treat into a child’s Easter basket.