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The Kitchen Madonna Hardcover – February 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Margaret Rumer Godden, born in 1907 in Sussex, England, spent most of her younger years in India, where her parents gave her and her two sisters many opportunities to mingle with Indian people while educating their daughters at home. Both parents' gift of storytelling would kindle similar gifts, developed even further, in their children. In those early years there was all the time in the world to think, Rumer Godden said. Even our lessons were at a slow pace. *
Later, in England, young Miss Godden was encouraged in her writing talent by perceptive instructors at a school called Moira House. Having taken training in dance, Rumer Godden returned to India and opened a ballet school for both British and Indian children. After an unhappy marriage that left her in financial debt she and her daughters retreated to a cottage in the mountains of Kashmir. There she worked hard writing novels, drawing from the many experiences of both her worlds, European and Indian. By the 1940s Rumer Godden was becoming an acclaimed author. In the course of a lifetime she would write over 60 books and be named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In the 1940s Rumer Godden returned to England. Here she began to write books for children with all the craftsmanship she dedicated to her adult novels. She is perhaps best known for her stories about dolls, a series, that is, according to May Hill Arbuthnot, unsurpassed in variety and charm, for her dolls have distinct personalities and in her books they talk and act in character (Children and Books). In The Kitchen Madonna we see Miss Godden's perennial interest in those individuals with a special contribution to make who do not fit easily into simple categories. Ruth Hill Viguers writes, Rumer Godden's intuitive understanding of children that gives such special life to her books about children was never more evident than it is in The Kitchen Madonna (A Critical History of Children's Literature).
Continuing to write, and succeed, in many fields including adaptation to the screen, Miss Godden remained in the British Isles, becoming a Roman Catholic, marrying happily a second time, and retiring eventually in Scotland. She died in 1998.
* Information and quotations, except where noted, are drawn from the profile in Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults Vol 3, Detroit, Gale Research, Inc, 1993; and from the profile by Jean Russell in Twentieth Century Children's Authors, Chicago and London, St James Press, 1989.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 103 pages
  • Publisher: Bethlehem Books (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932350233
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932350234
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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As an adult, I enjoyed the story very much.
Volkert Volkersz
By the way, I read the edition with the original drawings by Carol Barker, and I thought they flawlessly, colorfully accompanied the text.
K. M.
They're both about learning to give, love and give some more.
Cristal Shanda Lear

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "sarah_the_princess" on December 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Let me put it to you this way...I am considering buying this book for $45 and I am a poor college student. The most touching story of childhood generosity ever.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By awuebbels@hotmail.com on May 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Rumer Godden delivers another unsentimental children's story that explores the quiet devotion that Peter has to his Ukranian housekeeper. A solitary boy who does not liked to be kissed or hugged, Peter scours London for a "Kitchen Madonna " that will make his homesick nanny feel welcome. In the course of his search, Peter makes new allies and discovers that even he needs the warmth and companionship of his family and neighbors.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Heartwarming tale of a standoffish London boy who goes to great efforts to make his Eastern-european refugee housekeeper feel welcome in her new country.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on August 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Rumer Godden's THE KITCHEN MADONNA wraps the reader into the (apparently) 1960's existence of a London family with two busy architects as parents of a nine-year-old boy named Gregory and a seven-year-old girl named Janet. Gregory and Janet aren't sappy or spoiled. They are a bit neglected by their parents though and as a result are remarkably self-reliant and what we now call "proactive."

The children, especially Gregory, are worried their current maid/cook/etc., an immigrant from the Ukraine called Marta, isn't happy and will leave, as so many of the previous "help" did. Marta thinks their modern kitchen is rather cold and she tells the children of the custom in her Ukrainian home to have a devotional nook with a special kind of icon. Gregory, who is a withdrawn, aloof young fellow, decides to find a picture for Marta like she had at home. He and Janet range farther afield in London than they have parental permission to do. They visit museums and shops to further this quest. They suffer some setbacks and have to stretch their ingenuity. Gregory is the artistic one while Janet provides back-up for her usually reticent brother and sometimes suggests practical ways to overcome a hurdle. Gregory's determination to give something truly special to Marta transports him from his isolation to a a more social orientation. He learns that giving is loving and that creating something beautiful and meaningful requires commitment and sacrifice.

THE KITCHEN MADONNA is a forty-five-year-old tale that has lost none of its charm and purity. Told unsentimentally but with precision and a touch of urban enchantment, it is as much, if not more, for adults as for children. It illuminates, as so many of Godden's books do, a resounding goodness that human beings carry inside but need a prod to develop.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Yank on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Shy, possessive and tired of changes, Gregory is attached to the family's housekeeper, Marta. But Marta is unhappy. Will she go away like the others? Gregory fears the worst. Marta, a late middle-age woman from Polish Ukraine, is too grateful to the family to reveal the source of her unhappiness. Gregory thinks he knows the cause and along with his younger sister Janet, he hatches a plan to make Marta happy and keep her longer. Together they search for a Ukrainian icon to create a "good place" in Marta's kitchen.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By valentine03 VINE VOICE on July 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the only way you can get this now is to pay for a used copy. I don't know. I do know that if you're contemplating it, and you can at all manage, it is worth it. This is a gentle, kindly book. Doesn't it seem like there are very few of them being written any more? Instead of poking you, or dragging you, it takes your hand, as a friend does, and takes you somewhere wonderful, and says it's okay to believe in love. Okay to teach love.

I don't know about you, but to me, that's worth an awful lot.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lonely glen on June 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This new paperback edition has a totally inappropriate cover for this incandescent story of faith and love and the incarnation of those gifts.

This is just as good a read for adults as for children. I don't think anybody under twelve will really understand the weight and complexity of the characters' emotions. They would still enjoy the "crafty" aspect of the story, though, so it could go on any family's shelf.

I LOVE this book and hope to find the old hardback with its simple blue cover, but I'll live with this *very* reasonably priced one in the meantime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rumer Godden (1907-1998) has an enormous canon that ranges from children's fiction to adult literature to non-fiction to poetry. Very likely her best known work is BLACK NARCISSUS, which formed the basis for the celebrated 1947 film starring Deborah Kerr, but my own favorite of her works is the 1967 THE KITCHEN MADONNA, technically a children's book, factually a book to entrance all ages.

The story concerns a Protestant English family living in London. Both parents are employed, and their children Gregory and Janet are often left in the care of a paid housekeeper. These tend to come and go, and Gregory dislikes all of them--until Marta arrives. A war refugee from the Ukraine, she is completely unlike their previous caretakers: she does not like to play games, she does not like to gossip with the other servants in the apartment building, and she is always very serious. But she seems unhappy in the household, and when the children press her she tells them it is because there is "no good place" in the kitchen, which is her special domain. It takes some probing, but the children finally realize that Marta, a devout Catholic, wants an icon in the kitchen but does not know how to go about acquiring such a thing.

Although the story is told primarily from the point of view of daughter Janet, the story itself is about how the extremely self-contained, very shy, and somewhat selfish Gregory begins to research icons and determines to make a "kitchen madonna" for Marta. The research takes them to jewelers and churchs and the construction becomes quite involved. All of it demands personal sacrifice of time, money, and even treasured possessions, and through the process Gregory learns how to give of himself and to show kindness to another person.
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