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The Story of Babushka, Catherine Flores: Review

It’s been a while since I have done a review and if I’m completely honest; I didn’t expect to be doing one on a children’s book any time soon. And yet here we are. When Catherine first messaged me about her book I knew I wanted in because of my affinity with Russian Nesting Dolls. I have loved them since I was a child after my Nana gifted me her very own. As Catherine describes;

“The doll has come to symbolise Russian folk culture, as well as the complex and beautiful layers of women.”

Her story really does solidify this meaning and truly showcases the depth of women and I’m very happy to have had the chance to read it. This book may primarily be a children’s book but by no means is it only for children. The flowing words, beautiful imagery, and insightful meaning will strike true for any reader.

Babushka is the name of the complete doll and each of the five bodies have their own name, traits, and decorations. The story follows each of these bodies as they leave the nest (pun intended) and go on their solo adventures. However, they each come to realise that they need to work and live together to be truly happy and complete. I love this story wholeheartedly as in my mind, it creates a simple discourse surrounding the societal ideas of women that is easily comprehensible. For instance, in the case of Antonia (the most beautiful doll) she is only known for her beauty; Antonia needs the other bodies of the doll to be recognised as more. This simply isn’t the case for women. We want to be beautiful, wealthy, talented, wise, and give love.

The bodies of Babushka

Another thing I love about this story is the fact that each of the bodies go on their own journeys. I think it’s very telling about humans and their desire to be perfect at something; but the way this story presents itself reminds you that you don’t have to be just one thing. I can imagine this book being read to younger children in a way to encourage all of their passions and different aspects of their personalities. The Story of Babushka really is a celebration of the complexity of individuals.

I also have to mention here the illustrations that accompany this book. They are beautifully crafted to add to the fairytale setting and create a sense of whimsy that is just lovely. The only thing I would say that I doubted within this book was the similarity of the names for the talented and wise dolls. I think any parent who reads this aloud would have to really enunciate Paula and Viola; however the imagery does help distinguish the two and they have separate colours for readers to follow along. Overall, this book was a super quick but an absolute delight to read.

Here’s me with my very own Babushka

Caraval, Stephanie Garber: Review

I am no stranger to a fantasy novel, in fact I would go as far as saying that its my go to genre. So, its no surprising that Caraval found its way onto my ‘to be read’ pile. And it didn’t stay there long. Once I picked this book up I found it hard to put down and was racing through the chapters.

“It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .”

The beginning of the novel I found particularly enticing as Stephanie Garber is a true mastermind in backstory. I instantly knew the main characters; Scarlett and Tella, and their personalities came through brightly. Scarlett was a character that I found much more appealing and someone I could root for. Whereas Tella was a little lacklustre for my personal taste and a character I found even annoying at times. However, it was Scarlett that took centre focus.

The action really begins when Scarlett arrives at Caraval; a spectacular treasure hunt style performance where the winner is granted a wish. This is where the questions really begin. Where’s Tella? Who’s a player? and most importantly is it real? The game no longer felt like a game, especially with her sister missing, and I was utterly invested. This is what I really liked about the novel. I enjoyed the suspense and mystery the game gave me, especially when it led to the darker aspects that I really wasn’t expecting. The seedy underground tunnels, the tortured past of experienced players and the reveal of a murder really made this novel stand out.

The ending to this book, although it was a real twist disappointed me. I was interested in the art of trickery that the plot presented and the understated magic than ran through it. I wanted more of a presence from the enigmatic Legend who created Caraval.

Overall however, this book was a true fantastical YA hit. It teased me with a budding romance, it warmed me with a sisterly relationship and it captured me with its magic. I would definitely recommend Garber’s Caraval, especially to those that perhaps wouldn’t pick it up because of its fantasy elements. This book is first and foremost a mystery and it is absolutely compelling.

Rating: 3 out of 5.