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The Littlest Matryoshka Hardcover – January 1, 1900

4.8 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With illustrations quaint enough for Christmas cards, an author's note that explains the history of nesting dolls, and a story reminiscent of The Tin Soldier, Bliss's (Matthew's Meadow) picture book will especially please collectors of Russian matryoshkas. The story begins "in a small shop in a snowy village in Russia," where Nikolai the doll maker, a Geppetto-like wood carver, fashions a set of six nesting dolls. He tells them, "You are six sisters," and names each one. Anna, the largest doll, watches as they travel to America, where they are lined up on a shelf, and the smallest doll, Nina, is accidentally knocked to the floor and kicked outside into the snow. After a plow scoops up Nina and a snow truck dumps her outside of town, the shopkeeper sells the remaining matroyoshkas to a girl, Jessie, for half-price. Nina rides a river of melting snow to a stream, is picked up by a heron, found by a squirrel, tumbles down a rain pipe and is eventually found by Jessie and her cat, who reunite the six sisters. "How they rejoiced to be together again!" as "Anna smiled the smile that had been painted on by Nikolai the doll maker in Russia, so long ago." Brown's (Tough Boris) paintings are sweetly old-fashioned, the images perceived as if behind a scrim of fantasy. They suit the nostalgic mood of the narrative. What this story lacks in originality, it makes up for in neatnessAthe elements fit together as cozily as the dolls nesting one inside the other. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 2-Created by a doll maker in Old Russia, a set of six nesting dolls travels to America and finds its way into a toy shop. When Nina, the littlest "sister," is accidentally brushed off a table, she begins a journey that rivals the Perils of Pauline. She is lost in a pile of snow, survives a waterfall, is threatened by a blue heron, gathered up by a squirrel, jostled down a drainpipe, and played with by a cat before she is discovered by Jessie, the young girl who had purchased the incomplete set. Bliss's story and text are most successful when they incorporate elements of traditional folklore: Although the narrative tends to be long-winded, it nevertheless makes for an effective read-aloud. Brown adopts a representational style and a palette consisting mostly of soft shades of blue, brown, and green. Against this pastel background, the nesting dolls-with their traditional bold red and yellow coloring-become the focus of each picture. The art does a credible job of capturing the action of the text but is less successful in establishing a consistent sense of time and place. Still, the adventure has definite appeal. A note on the history of these dolls is included.
Denise Anton Wright, Alliance Library System, Bloomington, IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; 1st edition (January 1, 1900)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786801530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786801534
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this little adventure story about how the littlest matryoshka doll is taken back to her family. It is very sweet and suitable for younger children. It is pure and innocent and beautifully illustrated. It can be seen symbolically as well: we are like the littlest matryoshka in that we need and can do nothing to help ourselves in dark moments other than be patient and watchful of ourselves and let the storm run its course. If we don't despair, but just be present to the dark moments in our life and wait them out, we will be brought to an even closer relationship with God. (There is no mention of God in this story.)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this to go with a present of Russian nesting dolls. It's a very nice little story with attractive and plentiful illustrations. The smallest doll gets lost and her journey back to her sisters makes up the action of the story. It is gently told with emphasis on hope and love. The illustrations are an echo to the theme with soft colors and brush lines.

The story will appeal to girls because of the doll subject matter. It will appeal to VERY LITTLE girls because of it repetitions. The dolls each have a name and they are repeated again and again, fitting in nicely with the story line. Little children do love repetition in their stories.

I'm pleased with it. I would put it at about 4th grade reading level if the child is to read it by herself.
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