“Enchanting illustrations and poetic text weave a tender tale of longing for a child in a folklore style.”
This tender tale of a couple’s wish to have a child of their own is told in the style of a folktale, both in its structure as well as in the poetic writing style, which is rich with imagery. The old man and old woman have cared for the forest since its beginning and in return are blessed for their goodness with a branch from an oak tree. The old man carves the branch into five matryoshka dolls that the old woman cares for like daughters, her heart seemingly satisfied. When a wolf bites the doll daughters, leaving them in pieces, the old man once again returns to the oak tree from whence they were carved, but this time is blessed with a daughter “real and true.” While the story feels disjointed at times—particularly as it transitions from the doll daughters sitting in the windowsill to their playing outside in the stream—overall the book offers a rich reading experience, providing a wealth of opportunities to delve deep with a child about their thoughts on the couple’s caring for the forest, desiring a family, raising the dolls, the danger of the wolf, and the final granting of the couple’s heart’s desire. In the true nature of folklore, some aspects are left unexplained and open to the imagination. The illustrations are key, both in the continued feeling of traditional folklore they support as well as their unique beauty and detail. Their very specific style—a gorgeous color palette alive with forest life; small heads and large bodies for the primary characters with detailing on their traditional clothing—feels simultaneously timeless and uniquely fresh.
When a great white oak gifts an old man a branch imbued with magic, he carves five wooden matryoshka dolls, “each smaller than the last.” The wooden dolls take on a life of their own as they frolic from one season to the next, bringing the old man and his wife a joy they had always longed for. Beautiful verse and stunning, traditional illustrations full of woodland creatures and playfully painted matryoshka dolls explore a tale of heartache, hope, and love.
Stephanie Campisi is an Australian-born, Califnoria-based children’s book author. She has slept in a cemetery, has a friend who was bullied by a prince, and has lived in a haunted house in a haunted town. Two of the three statements in the previous sentence are true. Or maybe they all are.
Stephanie is the author of the picture books The Ugly Dumpling, Luis and Tabitha, Very Lulu and Five Sisters. Her fifth book, Quacks Like a Duck, will release in 2021.
Stephanie is represented by Margaret Sutherland Brown of Folio Literary.
Madalina Andronic is a Romanian illustrator currently based in Puglia, Italy, drawing inspiration from traditional fairy tales, folklore, travels, and love stories, never forgetting the magic of where she comes from. Passionate about details and rich colors, Madalina’s art radiates energy and joy. With an MA in illustration from Camberwell College of Arts in London, she developed a strong and distinctive style and has worked for clients all around the world in publishing, editorial, advertising, commissions, and porcelain, as well as having nine published books in Romania, the UK, and the United States.