This primer begins with a lesson in geography, orienting young readers to Russia’s vast size by explaining that it has nine time zones, vastly different climates, and “many different nationalities and ethnic groups.” Roman then personalizes the cultural lesson by giving examples of what the reader, or their parents, might be named if he or she lived in Russia, filling out that section with charming drawings of a Russian family and their home. The familiar sight of the children using their textbooks at the kitchen table helps bridge the gap between the Russian culture and the reader’s current life. Roman weaves in architectural and historical destinations, such as Red Square, and then transitions seamlessly to food choices and games the children play, all of them accompanied by vibrant illustrations. Cheerfully decorated snow-covered trees and gifts illustrate a description of the Russian New Year, followed by a brief visit to school. The clever combination of illustrations and text helps young readers glimpse what life is like in Russia in a way that allows them to see similarities as well as differences, teaching that, in the end, we’re all the same even though we’re different. For instance, when describing a game similar to hide-and-seek, she asks, “Do you have a game like that too?” The closing image of the children holding hands around the globe, each representing a different culture, brings home the lesson. A glossary with Russian words offers a helpful review of the new vocabulary introduced in the book. Roman does a fantastic job loading the book with information about Russia, but at times, the long blocks of text feel cumbersome and overloaded with dry facts, as in a section describing seven different types of food in one paragraph.
A fact-loaded primer accentuated with delightful illustrations.