First, I want to be absolutely clear: The Talking Eggs is not an Easter story. Yes, it has eggs in it. And some of the eggs talk, and some of them are decorated with gold and silver and jewels. But they’re not Faberge eggs. They have nothing to do with Pascha.
And The Talking Eggs has rabbits in it. Men rabbits in frock-tail coats and lady rabbits in trail-train dresses. Rabbits that danced, and one that played the banjo. But these are not Easter rabbits.
The Talking Eggs is a folk tale from Louisiana, retold by Robert D. San Souci. It’s a wonderful tale, and San Souci tells it wonderfully well.
It’s something of a Cinderella story. Blanche is kind and good, and she’s ill-treated by her mother and by her sister, Rose. Blanche does all the work while Rose and their mother sit on the porch and dream of becoming fine ladies in town.
Instead of a fairy godmother, Blanche meets a strange old woman who may be a witch. Instead of a prince and a glass slipper … there are no princes in the story. No glass slippers. Just Blanche and Rose, their mother, and the witch. And, of course, the talking eggs.
Magic with Words
San Souci’s writing is as magical as the witch. He uses the sounds of words and the images they create as if he were writing poetry. Rose and Blanche and their mother “lived on a farm so poor, it looked like the tail end of bad luck.” Rose “was cross and mean and didn’t know beans from birds’ eggs.”
When Blanche encounters the old woman a second time, “the old woman took her by the hand and led her deep into the backwoods. As they walked along the narrow path, bramble bushes and tree branches opened wide in front of them, and closed up behind them.” San Souci uses alliteration here and throughout the story to create a magical, musical feel to the story.
You can read The Talking Eggs for the joy of a good story. And you should! You could also use it if you’re teaching the use of language in literature, or the history of folk tales, or any of a number of other topics. It would lend itself to any number of lesson plans or research papers for middle schoolers or high schoolers. Or – who am I kidding? – college students as well. I would totally use this book in a literature or composition class in college.
Jerry Pinkney is the illustrator, and he’s won Caldecott honors and medals at least half a dozen times, so you expect a book that he illustrated to be gorgeous. It is. The art in The Talking Eggs is as fabulous as the writing. Done in pencil, colored pencil, and water colors, the illustrations are warm and expressive, just perfect for the story.
Marushka’s Egg: A Review: Marushka’s Egg is also not an Easter story, even though it begins on Easter. It’s a Baba Yaga story. Students might have fun doing a compare-and-contrast with the two books!
How Easter Got Its Name: Some people thing Easter was named for a goddess. It wasn’t. Here’s the real story.
Tekla’s Easter: Follow a little girl in Sweden as she participates in Easter traditions that include bonfires and witches. At Easter. Really!