...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


The Littlest Matryoshka by Corinne Demas Bliss

I can't really say for sure how long - but it feels like I have always loved nesting dolls - or Matryoshka dolls. Beautiful wooden dolls hand-painted and nestled inside each other... gives me the sense of how families are - and how we are each a part of the other. My sister Wagma brought home the very first set I had ever seen while backpacking in Europe more than 10 years ago. Since that time, they have been resting in boxes or shelves as space fillers. When I moved out, they came with me.

Today, the set of 4 are nestled high above Ava's table [I'm still looking for those 2 little ones that got lost under the care of a little girl I know]. I have been meaning to collect these childhood icons, but just haven't come across any to bring home. Until now. And instead of dolls, I found a very beautiful book illustrating a story about journeys in more ways than one.

I picked this book up at Half-Price Books without Ava seeing it. At bedtime, I pulled it out from under the covers and surprised her with it. After reading her the title, she interrupted and said, "A-va has oye-ssh-ca over there" - she looks up and points to the girls. I squeezed her.

The story begins with the Russian artist who carves, paints and ships them to the US to be sold. The biggest, Anna, promises to take care of all her "sisters" - until fate knocked Nina, the smallest doll, off the store's display table, and out the door into the winter's snow. And what happens next teaches us a beautiful lesson on faith and courage and the power of promises.

And journeys? This story also reminds me of how so many families immigrate to other countries one by one - seeking new life for the good of the whole family. For some countries, it's winning the Lotto. For others, it's a due process of money, law or time. That journey is sometimes long, complicated, and empty. And it isn't until they are all reconnected, in their new place, can they be a family again. It's just. Heart-wrenching.

Recommended for 4+ but I paraphrased the details and let the whimsical paintings on the page tell the rest of the story. Ava loved it - especially the ending!

Keep the story going by visiting their online site for facts & games with the little ones!
ps: did you know the first Matryoshka dolls were actually made in China in the early 1800s? [sigh. they make everything don't they?] It didn't become part of the Russian folk tradition until the late 1890s.

What's your Matryoshka story?

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