The Blessing Cup
The Blessing Cup
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Hardcover, 9781442450479, 48pp.
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
A bond of love unites a family throughout generations in this companion to the beloved and bestselling classic The Keeping Quilt.
As a young Russian Jewish girl in the early 1900s, Anna and her family lived in fear of the Czar’s soldiers. The family lived a hard life and had few possessions—their treasure was a beautiful china tea set. A wedding gift to Anna’s parents, the tea set came with a wish that “Anyone who drinks from this will have blessings from God. They will never know a day of hunger. Their lives will always have flavor. They will know love and joy and they will never be poor.”
When Anna’s family leaves Russia for America, they bring the tea set and its blessings. A source of heritage and security, the tea set helps Anna’s family make friends and find better lives in America. A cup from the tea set—The Blessing Cup—became an anchor of family history, and it remains a symbol of lasting love more than a century later.
This tender tribute to the importance of loving lineage is a prequel and companion to the perennial bestseller The Keeping Quilt and is told and illustrated with authenticity and tremendous heart.
THE BLESSING CUP [STARRED REVIEW!]
Polacco has a gift for turning her own family stories into picture books that can touch the hearts of all.
The Keeping Quilt is now 25 years old. In this brand-new companion, Polacco turns to her great-grandmother Anna’s story of how she came to America. The pictures, vibrant and brilliantly suggestive of movement, are mostly black-and-white, shaded with her signature use of color to highlight certain details. Devotees of The Keeping Quilt will recognize Anna’s babushka, which became the border of the quilt, on the young Anna when the czar’s soldiers come to their Russian town to burn the temple and expel all the Jews. The family packs up its most precious possessions, including her papa’s sewing machine and the beautiful china teapot and cups that were a wedding present. Even as they travel, they continue the ritual of drinking from the cups for God’s blessing, breaking bread so they will never know hunger and using salt so that their lives will have flavor. When Anna’s papa’s health breaks down from hauling the cart with all their possessions, a widowed doctor takes the family in and cares for them until, once again, they are forced to leave. In gratitude for the doctor’s care and for his supplying them with passage to America, they leave him the tea set, save for one cup. Polacco closes with the journey of that particular cup to the present day.
History, religious persecution, immigration, and the skeins of faith and love that connect a family are all knit together in this powerful, accessible and deeply affecting story. (Picture book. 6-10)
In this prequel to The Keeping Quilt, readers learn how Polacco’s great-grandmother Anna and her parents were forced from their shtetl in Czarist Russia and made their way to America. Among the few treasures the family took with them was a vibrantly painted tea set, a kind of familial talisman (“This tea set is magic. Anyone who drinks from it has a blessing from God,” says Anna’s mother, explaining its lore), which also served as a reminder that they would always be rich in what matters: resilience and love. Only one cup from the tea set made it to their new home, but it played a central role in the family’s traditions and milestones through the generations. Polacco opens her heart to readers as few authors can, inviting them to become intimates in her family’s low and high points. As in The Keeping Quilt, she renders her unabashedly sentimental scenes of immigrant life in exuberant, fluid gray pencil, reserving the splashes and spots of color primarily for the tea set and—in a link to the earlier book—the babushka that will become part of the quilt. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)