The Littlest Matryoshka
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68 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 1999
I bought this book hot off the presses and sight unseen just because I like matryoshka dolls, and was not disappointed. My five-year-old enjoys it very much also. Both the story and illustrations are high quality. A Russian craftsman makes the nesting doll, then ships it to a toy store America, where the littlest doll is lost. A girl buys the dolls, takes them home, and eventually - accidentally- the littlest doll finds her sisters again in a rather implausible ending. Anyone who has ever loved a matryoshka doll will appreciate the story (those little ones do get lost easily)! The illustrations are brightly colored and realistic. Overall, an appealing book to own or give as a gift.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2004
Although the set of coincidences leading to the happy ending is far-fetched enough to raise a toddler's eyebrows, this sweet story extolling the sisterhood bond is a favorite in our home. The matryoshkas, or nesting dolls, have human emotions. They grieve the loss of their littlest sister, the center doll carved from the heart of the wood. Yet their inability to behave as people do leaves them helpless. "They could not lift their painted arms to reach out..." After the littlest matryoshka is reunited with them, the young girl who owns the dolls places them in a circle so that each can look at her sisters' faces and rejoice. Only then do the dolls' painted smiles really mean something.
Each of the dolls is given a name. Several times throughout the story, their stacking order is chanted. "Nina inside Nadia, and Nadia inside Vanda," and so on. This repetition helps make the story a fun read-aloud book for young children.
Kathryn Brown's watercolor illustrations are not only cute, they also teach the reader something about matryoshka costuming. When we first meet the toy maker crafting the matryoshka set, each doll's outfit is being decorated slightly more elaborately than the previously painted doll. Similarly, their faces are drawn with progressively more detail. Though the difference between any two consecutive dolls is hardly remarkable, the cumulative effect of adding increasingly more decorations is apparent when they are lined up next to each other. Reading this book just once helps the novice gain new appreciation for the subtleties involved with this old Russian folk art tradition.
In summary, this is a delightful book that will be appreciated by children and adults alike.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2007
This is a very simple story which details the creation of a set of Matroyshka dolls in a quaint Russian village by a wood carver. Just before they begin their journey to, the doll maker says: "you are six sisters" "keep your sisters safe inside you and may you find a happy home...and so the biggest doll does, all the way to a new shop in America. The sister are: Nina, Nadia, Vanda, Varka, Olda, Anna (from littlest to biggest). The dolls are lined up in the store for display, unfortunately one day Nina is knocked from the shelf and is swept out of the store into the snow. From there, the remaining dolls are sold at discount to a young girl and we follow the progress of Nina as she is plowed away by a truck, found and discarded by a squirrel, falls into a river, is carried away by a bird and finally tumbles down a rain pipe...conveniently at the home of her sisters new owner where they are all happily reunited.

It's a cute story, if a little contrived. It would make a fine read aloud for younger children (birth to about 3 years), I don't think kids much older than 5 will really find this story all that engaging. Fans of Matryoshka dolls will adore the illustrations here as they are rich, vibrant and very well done! Overall, I give four stars, is a sweet little story that is fine for young children and collectors of these dolls and their images will also appreciate the sweetness of the story, as it matches the sweetness of the dolls.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a lovely tale about the connection of a family. For families formed through Russian adoption this is an enormously poignant story - the ending, where the littlest matroyshka doll is reunited with her sisters, serves as a metaphor for how we find each other, even though oceans previously divided us.

I agree that the ending is far-fetched, but it's also very satisfying!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2007
This is a wonderful story. I used it as an activity for teaching Russia during our third grade Christmas Around the World day and the children loved it!! I even liked it after reading it 6 times that day. The toughest part was figuring out how to pronounce "Matryoshka." I finally decided to say it ma*truh*yo*shka. Hopefully that was correct :)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2007
I read this book to my grandchildren during Christmas week. I have the set of dolls and each one held a doll and actually took part in the story. This is a heartwarming story for young and old to enjoy. I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2010
My daughter resisted reading this one when we got it from a book club -- the title put her off because she didn't know what matryoshka was. But once we read it together, she asked for it over and over. Something about the idea of the little one returning safely home really got her, I guess. I love the way the prose is "nested" and repetitive, just like the dolls. And the illustrations are high quality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2014
When we found this book at the library, the pretty illustrations and gentle content moved this book into the check-out stack. After we read it the first time, my two boys (3 and 5) loved the story. I happened to have these dolls in the attic, so we got them out and lined them up, and they played with the them, retelling the story. Sometimes a nice book from the library is just that. We enjoy it and then we're fine to never see it again. Initially I assumed this book was more in that category, and the English major in me makes me ridiculously picky about books sometimes.
We use the Five in a Row curriculum with our boys, and the more we've read this book, the more I see its richness. This is not the most glorious children's book ever written, but it has true content, and it would work as a FIAR book (the program encourages multiple readings of living books, those with rich content, while fostering connections to the real world through activities, projects, recipes, etc related to the topics introduced in the book). This book references Russia so, for example, parents and kids could explore Russia with other books/maps/music/food. It introduces the idea of immigration and the complications families faced in an age-appropriate manner. Other topics for related learning off the top of my head: the change of seasons, solids and liquids (with snow falling, melting, the stream to waterfall to "fork in the stream", the rain gutter), several animals for nature study or a youtube or library activity, a nice linear story line with enough complications that it is easy to see if the child understood the story (when they retell it)/ you could do some sequencing activity or drawing. The little girl models compassion when the sister is missing, the shopkeeper is helpful when she is shopping for her dolls, and the doll maker is creative and loving as he creates the dolls. I am sure there are more connections, but I really do see this book as a nice starting point for various discussions and activities if readers are so inclined. Even just as a night time read aloud, it is a worthwhile purchase, maybe for a little one along with some nesting dolls or the Usborne sticker set.
Obviously, I am now purchasing our own copy so ewe can revisit these topics later in our school year. This is certainly not the cream of the crop, best-ever book in Childrens' Lit, but a very nice addition to any collection of living books for the younger set.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've always liked matryoskas, and read this story years ago. It now has a strange resonance for me.
The littlest matryoska of my current set got lost five years ago during a thorough house-cleaning. I couldn't find her anywhere, despite several searches, and assumed that she had gotten sucked into a vacuum cleaner and discarded with the dust-bunnies.
I considered donating the rest of the set to the Salvation Army, but somehow just couldn't stand the thought of donating an incomplete set. Besides, I remembered "The Littlest Matryoska" and held on to a silly, romantic hope that maybe she would find her way home again. So my matryoska set sat incomplete on the shelf for several years.
Then last week, my cable TV blacked out. In one of those strange belly-crawling, muscle-cramping maneuvers involving a flashlight that homeowners sometimes find themselves doing, I shone a powerful Mag-Lite beam back into a dark obscure corner behind the entertainment center. There sat the littlest matryoska!
In another contortion involving a broomstick and a rolled-up piece of duct tape (Homo Domesticus, the tool-making ape), I retrieved the littlest matryoska, very dusty but otherwise unharmed. After a quick wash, I sealed her safely inside her sisters (while my cat batted enthusiastically at this strange new sqeaky-toy that daddy was playing with), and put the unit back on the shelf..
And so a REAL littlest matryoska found her way home!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2007
This is a darling book. The story is just so sweet. I enjoy reading it to my boys. Wasn't sure how interested in reading a book about "dolls" would be, but they enjoy it.
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