My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
In Soviet Ukraine, your mother is beautiful to you!
This is based on a Russian folk tale. It takes place in the Ukraine. A little girl, maybe five or six years old, is helping her parents harvest wheat. Before it gets to this, it goes on and on about how the Ukraine is awesome, and the sun is the best in the Ukraine, and the watermelons are the best in the Ukraine, and the cabbages are the best in the Ukraine, and the cucumbers are the best in the Ukraine, et cetera. Everything is the best in the Ukraine. They have the best dance. It's this massive story just to tell like a proverb. It's a great proverb, with a great message, but it doesn't need to go into anywhere near this much detail.
It's the last day of the harvest, and the girl is a little bit tired, so she takes a nap in the middle of the wheat field, and wakes up and can't find her parents. She goes looking for them and finds a group of strangers. (They're peasants, so there's no "stranger danger" happening here.) She's distraught because she can't find her parents, and they ask her what her name or her parents' names are, and she's incoherent because she's so upset. Finally, she blurts out, "My mother's the most beautiful woman in the world." The strangers take that as useful information, so they go find all the beautiful women they can, and bring them to her. They keep asking her if these super beautiful women are her mom, but she keeps saying no.
Finally, her mother shows up, looking for her daughter, and her mom's this pudgy woman with squinty eyes, and they're like, "That's your--? Okay, well, you're weird." And the proverb is, "We don't love people because they're beautiful; people are beautiful because we love them." That's a really sweet message, but to get there they had to jump through so many hoops and pad the book with so many unrelated things like baking cakes and dances and accordion music. The story just meanders before it gets there. It's not a bad story; it just doesn't go anywhere.
At the end, the girl says, "Mama, people were making fun of me for talking about you being beautiful, and they said, 'Only the tsarina is that beautiful, and the queens, and the angels,' and stuff like that. But you're the most beautiful woman." And the mom says, "Yeah, some people only see with their eyes, but you see with your heart, too." Okay...? Gag.
I have to say the funniest part of this book for me was this: On the last page of the book, there is an empty decorative frame with the words: "In this frame you may place a picture of your own mother, the most beautiful woman in the world." And in the copy I checked out from the library, somebody has written in pen: "No way." It just made me laugh out loud. Were they upset by the book asking them to do that, or did they just seriously did not believe their mother was the most beautiful woman in the world? I picture them going, "Who are you to tell me what I'm supposed to do, book? I don't listen to books."