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The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite picture book authors, especially for older kids. She is not afraid to tackle very difficult themes in her books, and her illustrations have an amazing level of details. We read several seasonal books by Patricia Polacco that are set in Russia – I especially want to recommend Uncle Vova’s Tree for Russian Christmas and Rechenka’s Eggs for Easter. The Blessing Cup book and its sister The Keeping Quilt explain Patricia Polacco’s interest in Russian culture. Her family on her mother’s side came over from Russia somewhere in the early 20th century. The story of The Blessing Cup gives an account of this personal Exodus.
Patricia’s ancestors lived poor but content in a small Jewish village in mainland Russia enduring occasional pogroms fully supported by Russian tsar and his government. The book basically starts with one of those events and with burning of Jewish synagogue which prompted my 7 year old to think that the book is set in times of Holocaust and the Nazis (she learned about Holocaust from The Story of the World). Alas, anti-semitism in Russia and in the rest of Europe did not start or end with Holocaust, and it’s very disturbing to see it raising its ugly head now in the “enlightened” countries such as France. But… I digress. The good part about The Blessing Cup that it’s not a story of horror and suffering, but a story of hope and friendship that came from an unexpected place. Patricia describes how a Russian doctor helped her family, gave them shelter, nursed her father back to health and eventually sold his own heirloom to pay for their passage to America. This story reminds us how connected we are and how small miracles can happen every day, especially if we reach to others for help.
What about the Blessing Cup itself? You will learn about it when you read the book! Despite some scary moments, it is also OK to read as a read-aloud to younger children, but it will be better understood by kids age 6 and higher.
The Blessing Cup Story ExtensionSome time ago I won Horizon Pottery Wheel set in a giveaway at P is for Preschooler. The reviews at Amazon for this product are pretty damning, but it isn’t as bad as they would lead you to believe. This pottery wheel is now for sale on Amazon for only $10, and it’s a good price to get it. I do agree with review statements that clay that came with a set was of poor quality – it was dried to brick consistency when we opened the box – luckily we had some Crayola Air Dry clay left to try our wheel out. Once we had workable clay, the wheel worked fine. It has an A/C outlet, but comes without an A/C adapter or batteries – again, luckily, we had an extra A/C adapter available. Smarty was really excited to try her hand at real pottery and did reasonably well for the first try.
Some of the reviewers said that the age range for this toy needs to be bumped up, but I think even older kids would need a lot of practice to produce better pottery on any wheel. Pottery is a tricky business, as we now found out, but Smarty loved the experience, so we will watch some YouTube videos and try it again soon.
Reading The Blessing Cup story made me think about our own journey to America, since my husband and I are both first generation immigrants. He came here from Germany to work with an intention to go back in a couple of years (that was more than 10 years ago!) and still has family and possessions in Germany. My parents and I came here as refugees with a couple of suitcases. My biggest hairloom is this set of earrings that belonged to my grandmother. She was a Russian marrying a Jew (and her aunt who raised her approved the marriage, by the way). I am hoping that my daughter will eventually inherit these earrings from me with a story about her roots in Russia and Belarus and a story of my journey to America.
Your TurnDo you have a family heirloom? What is it?
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Check out the rest of Read Around the World Summer Series at Multicultural Kids Blogs.