Review: “The Kitchen Madonna” by Rumer Godden

For the love of books

Gregory is a taciturn, intelligent boy with an introverted personality.  Although he lives in a family environment with his parents and his younger sister Janet, Gregory clings to his possessions and his thoughts until he meets the new maid, Marta.

 Marta is a Ukrainian refugee who thrills both children with her baking, her stories, and her country’s customs.  When Marta reveals her secret nostalgia for her homeland, Gregory loyally devotes himself to the creation of a “Kitchen Madonna” for her.  What starts out as a quest for the most beautiful icon turns into a discovery of hidden talent, a growing interest in art, and a secret project known only by the siblings.

In The Kitchen Madonna, Godden paints a visual picture of a divided family that is united by a maid and her wish.  Gregory and Janet are disobedient to their parents many times during the story, but in this case “the ends justify the means” and all is forgiven in the light of Gregory’s personal transformation and his gift to Marta.  Gregory not only becomes closer to his sister and his parents, but also learns to be altruistic by using his creativity and talent to benefit others.  Godden uses Ukrainian phrases that add to the realism of the setting (modern England).  The Kitchen Madonna is truly a hidden treasure in children’s literature.

Original review: Part 3: Lesser-known authors of books for children, Examiner.com

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