The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

*Retold by Ransome

Publishing: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1968

Description: A family has three sons. The oldest two are bright and clever, while the third is the Fool of the World. As such, his parents do not treat him well, but he doesn’t seem to complain. One day, the Czar sends out a decree saying that any man who can build a ship that flies through the air can marry his daughter. The two oldest brothers set out and the mother sends them off with a fanfare and plenty of food. The fool protests to go as well, and after much argument, she sends him off with a few breadcrusts and some water. Along the way the fool meets a wise old man, who turns his meager meal into more extravagant food. He tells the young fool to go into the forest and make the sign of the cross three times before the biggest tree he sees, hit it with his hatchet, and he will have a flying boat. The only caveat is that when he rides it to the Czar’s palace he must pick up anyone he meets along the way. The fool does as he is told and picks up a motley crew of characters who come to his aid when the Czar tries to test the fool and drive him away. Finally, however, the fool succeeds, married the Czar’s daughter, and becomes a very clever man after all.

Programming: I would review with students what a moral is and have them try to discern what they think the moral- or morals- of this tale are. This tale might be compared to other folk and fairy tales, or other works of Shulevitz, such as The Treasure.

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990

Description: Natasha is an impatient little girl who constantly asks her Babushka to do things for her. One day Natasha notices a beautiful doll sitting on a high shelf. Natasha’s babushka says she only played with the doll once as a child, but tells the girl she can play with it while the babushka goes to the market. As soon as her babushka leaves, the doll comes to life and Natasha must cater to her every whim. When the babushka comes back and finds Natasha crying, she tells her she must have had a bad dream and that she can play with the doll anytime she wants. Natasha tells her that once is enough. 

Programming: This would be very cool if lumped together in a series about toys or dolls. The class could talk about different toys, or specifically types of dolls, found in different countries and time periods. You could even order your own blank white dolls and allow students to decorate their own with markers or puff paint, as seen here:

Boys might be more interested in this if they can decorate them as monsters as the picture shows. Other tie-ins would be the russian word “Babushka” and Natasha’s lesson in patience. Team building activities might reinforce students’ own patience. 

Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, Ill. by Nicolas Sidjakov

Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, Ill. by Nicolas Sidjakov


Publishing: Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1960

Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner

Description: The story of the Baboushka is similar to the traditional story of Santa Claus. The Baboushka is approached by the three wise men seeking the Christ and tries to get them to stop until morning. Instead, after they leave she feels guilty and goes in search of the baby with her own gifts in tow.

Programming: This would be good for sharing different tales of Christmas. Books about Hanukkah and Kwanza could also be read.