When I wrote Catherine’s Pascha, I had not heard of Tekla’s Easter, which is long out of print. And of course, when I wrote Catherine’s Pascha, it would be many years before Lisa Bullard would write Emma’s Easter. (Although I wrote my story first, she published first. But I didn’t find her book until this year!)
Each of the three books is about a little girl celebrating Easter with her family and her church. Catherine is an Orthodox Christian from a family that includes Greeks, Russians, and Native Alaskans. Tekla is Swedish. And Emma is a biracial child; her dad is black and her mom is from a Russian family.
And I find myself wondering why all three of us – me, Bullard, and Lillian Budd – decided to write about girls. For myself, I had a daughter who was about Catherine’s age when I first wrote the story, and I was writing the story primarily for her. It seems odd that I haven’t seen any Easter stories that focus on a boy. No “Peter’s Pascha” or “Samuel’s Easter.” I’m not sure why that is. But it’s interesting.
Why Is This Non-Fiction?
But back to Emma’s Easter! Although it’s a story, the book is classed as a non-fiction book about the celebration of Easter. As best I can tell, it’s non-fiction because the story is considered incidental; the book exists as a vehicle for presenting information. And while I usually object to books that pretend to be stories, Bullard manages not to sacrifice the story in Emma’s Easter for the facts.
In keeping with its classification as nonfiction, the book includes, in the back, a craft, a glossary, an index, and a list of books and websites for further reading. When the story fills only 18 pages, the index seems like overkill. But the resources would be good to use in a classroom or at home.
On most pages of the story, there is a purple badge that has additional information about Easter. I think the badges distract from the story, and if I were reading the book out loud to a child, I’d ignore them.
The Story and Art
The story is simple. As it begins, Emma’s family is coloring eggs on Holy Saturday. Emma makes one with her name on it.
The next day is Easter. Emma and her little brother eat candy from their Easter baskets and hunt for Easter eggs. But Emma can’t find the one with her name on it! She has to stop hunting when it’s time to go to church. After church, they have Easter dinner with their extended family. Emma’s Russian grandmother brings kulich. Unfortunately, there’s no mention that Emma’s Russian Grandmother probably hasn’t celebrated Easter yet, because the Russian Pascha celebrations are usually a week or two after Western Easter. And in years that it’s the same, Grandmother would have been up all night celebrating, before coming to Emma’s house for Easter dinner. That would have been nice information to include in one of the purple badges.
In any event, after Easter dinner, everyone helps Emma look for her missing egg.
The story is complemented by Constanza Basalazzo’s bright, animated illustrations. The pictures are stylized, somewhat flat and two-dimensional, like something you might see in a cartoon. I found Basalazzo’s use of shadows a bit of a distraction – light sources sometimes seem to be coming from various directions in the same picture.
But I doubt the shadows will distract a young child. Young children are going to enjoy this sweet story and the bright and friendly illustrations.
Easter Picture Books Keep Pascha Present: You might be tempted to put the Easter picture books away during Bright Week. Don’t do it! By keeping them out, you’ll help your little one understand that Easter lasts more than a single day.
The complete list of multicultural Easter picture books: If you’re looking for picture books that show people celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll find them on this list. All of them. (Well, almost all.)
17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.
Buy the Book: Catherine’s Pascha
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.