Babushka Baba Yaga

The Story

Babushka Baba Yaga Story
The Story (From Leah Polacco)

"She was the last of her kind. A creature of legends. A being of the forest. She ruled her woods alone."
Although Baba Yaga is known throughout Russia as a "terrible, horrible" creature that eats children, she is really a very sweet woman who exhausts her days watching in admiration of the village babushkas. How she does wish to have a grandchild of her own!
Baba Yaga decides one day to dress up as a babushka and go into the village where she might find a grandchild to love. As luck may have it, she encounters Victor, a little boy in need of a babushka, and offers his mother Natasha to care for him in exchange for a place to stay.
Victor and Babushka Baba Yaga become fast friends, and although at last she is content, Baba Yaga becomes very worried when the two overhear the other babushkas telling tales of the "wicked" forest creature. Fearful that Natasha and young Victor will discover her true identity, Baba Yaga returns to the woods where she belongs. However, not for long…
Although I will not reveal the surprising but happy ending of Babushka Baba Yaga, Patricia Polacco’s story is a reminder that, "Those who judge one another on what they hear or see, and not on what they know of them in their hearts, are fools indeed!"

Reviews

"Polacco's art here is better than ever, with deep colors, expressive faces, and varied compositions."

--Bulletin for Center of Children's Books 

"A rich melange of patterns and textures - and even a sprinkling of forest fairies."

--Publishers Weekly

"Kids will respond to the joyful story of the outsider who gets to join in."

--Booklist

"Ms. Polacco's characteristically exuberant illustrations, showing expressive peasants in folkloric costumes and settings as well as lurking, peeking, and flitting forest creatures, animate her heartwarming tale."

--New York Times Book Review

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The Artwork

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Mini-Poster


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Activity Ideas

Babushka Baba Yaga Activity Ideas

Although Baba Yaga of "Babushka Baba Yaga" is known throughout Russia as a "terrible, horrible" creature that eats children, she is really a very sweet woman who exhausts her days watching in admiration of the village babushkas. How she does wish to have a grandchild of her own! One day she decides to dress up as a babushka and go into the village in search of a grandchild to love. As luck may have it, she finds Victor, a little boy without a babushka. Although Victor and his mother Natasha grow to love and accept Baba Yaga, she is afraid they will discover her true identity, and consequently, returns to the forest.

When Baba Yaga’s identity is revealed at last, the book reminds readers, "Those who judge one another on what they hear or see, and not on what they know of them in their hearts, are fools indeed!" Although this lesson is stated plainly within the text, the story is filled with valuable lessons for children.

Below are several discussion questions created to help children arrive at their own interpretations of the previous quote, as well as discover the other lessons hidden throughout the story. I strongly encourage that after you have finished reading “Babushka Baba Yaga” to your class, you initiate a discussion of the book with the following questions.

Discussion Questions:

1. Baba Yaga was known as a terrible, horrible creature, when in fact, she was really a very sweet woman. What did she most likely long for, in addition to a grandchild? (Love, acceptance, family?. She wanted others to see her for who she truly was and not judge her by her looks or the tales they heard about her)

2. When Baba Yaga decided to go into the village to look for a grandchild, why did she have to wear a disguise? (She knew the townspeople feared her, and would consequently, reject her)

3. What does it mean to judge someone? Why is judging someone without knowing him or her, wrong?

4. When Patricia Polacco wrote, “Those who judge one another on what they hear or see, and not on what they know of them in their hearts, are fools indeed," what did she mean?

5. Like Baba Yaga, have you ever been the “new kid” in a school, neighborhood, community, or family? How did that make you feel? Did those around you accept you?

6. Patricia Polacco has written a lot about teasing. Can excluding someone based on how they look, speak, walk, or act, be considered a form of teasing? Why or why not?

7. Unfortunately, at one time or another, we have all been guilty of judging another person. Describe a situation where you have passed judgment, before getting to know another individual. (Although this question acts as a lead-in to the next question, it asks a lot of students and requires them to be very open and honest. Try opening with your own example. It doesn't necessarily have to be a negative situation? For example: ?When I first met my husband he was always cracking jokes and I didn't think he could take anything seriously. When I got to know him, I discovered he was a very serious person with a great sense of humor.?)

8. How can we avoid passing judgment on others? (GET TO KNOW THEM!!)

9. What are some ways you can get to know other students at school? (Invite them to sit with you at lunch, play with you at recess, hang out after school, etc.)

10. Baba Yaga returned to the forest because she was afraid that if Natasha, Victor, and the other babushkas discovered who she was, they would reject her. When her identity was revealed, why was Baba Yaga still accepted by the other babushkas?

THE CHALLENGE!!!

We here at Patricia Polacco .com want you to challenge your students to be better to each other! Here’s how it works…
Hopefully your discussion of “Babushka Baba Yaga” has your students thinking about ways to be less judgmental, and more accepting of their peers. Now, we want you to challenge them to make the difference in your school. Over the next week, each student is to find at least one person in his or her school or neighborhood who they do not know, and GET TO KNOW HIM OR HER!! Be sure you have already discussed ways to make this happen. As you know, some students are less outgoing than others. Likewise, some students are less receptive of new friends than others, so discourage your students from giving up after one attempt.

After one week, students are to report back to your class, with a brief oral account of how they got to know someone new and how their relationship with that person has developed. I strongly encourage that you have your students share with one another… They’ll be surprised to hear how their classmates have been excellent to others!

Other Activity Ideas:

1. Victor, who did not have a grandmother of his own, quickly accepted Baba Yaga as his loving babushka. First, have your students talk about their grandma or grandpa and what that person means to him or her. Some students may not have a grandparent in their lives, so encourage them to talk about a certain individual in their lives who cares for, and loves them (maybe a nanny, babysitter, aunt, uncle, or parent). Next, have your students write a letter of thanks to that special person, acknowledging the difference he or she has made in their lives. If your class has Internet access and the students have an e-mail address for that person, have them send a Baba Yaga virtual postcard instead of writing a letter. Or, photocopy the Baba Yaga mini-poster and have your students write their letters on the back.

2. Print off the Baba Yaga bookmark and photocopy it for your students. Have each student write on the back, one way they can be better to others. Laminate them for your students to keep in their books, as a reminder of THE CHALLENGE.

3. Quiz your students’ knowledge of the book with the “Babushka Baba Yaga” quiz.

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