I will just say this review might be slightly biased because I love Baba Yaga and her stories, I know this isn’t her story but it’s one of the reasons I grabbed this book. The House with Chicken Legs touches on important themes including grief and peer pressure.
There are spoilers in this review I’m afraid
This book is an innovative retelling of the Baba Yaga tradition from Slavic folklore. The Baba Yaga tales are one of my favourite sets of myths and she is part of the world-wide myth cycles of the wise, old woman. Baba Yaga is the Guardian of the Gate, the keeper of the doorway between this world and the next by allowing safe passage for the dead to the stars. We learn that without the Baba Yaga to guide them, the dead will fade away forever.
The book is told from Marinka perspective, Marinka is Baba Yaga’s granddaughter. Marinka has all the passion and flaws of 12-year-old. Her emotions are raw, erratic almost and full of angst, but with a soft underbelly and a desire to be listened to. Marinka is set to follow Baba Yagas footsteps and become a guide for the dead. Marinka adores her grandmother and admires her gift in helping the dead on their journey. The problem is that Marinka just wants a normal life. She wants friends and to escape her inevitable destiny.
Marinka and Baba live in a special house, that has chicken legs!! The house takes them around the world on their unlikely mission. Every few days, the house will rise on its chicken legs and move to another location so that the living don’t find Baba Yaga. This house doesn’t only have chicken legs its magical and cares for Baba and Marinka, shielding and nurturing them.
This is such an unusual and delightfully macabre tale. I love the folklore roots and that all the best fairy tales there was a dark undertone to the story. Marinka is a wonderful and relatable heroine, who is at times unforgiving and at other times kind, compassionate and brave. Baba is a fearsome but loving character and true to form.
The characters that we meet along this journey are brilliant and compliment the magical elements throughout the story while managing to stay in familiar experiences of friendship, sadness, elation, frustration and the exhilaration of new experiences. The whole array of supporting characters each bring their own wonderful flourishes to the story.
The main characters
N Marinka has all the passion and flaws of 12-year-old. Her emotions are raw, erratic almost and full of angst, but with a soft underbelly and a desire to be listened to.
N Baba Yaga herself stays true to her traditional character.
N The house with the chicken legs? Well, the house is a character of its own
I’m a big fan of folklore (if you hadn’t guessed). I will be honest I was a little apprehensive when I heard about a new version coming out but stupidly excited at the same time. This isn't really a complete retelling of the classic Slavic folktales it's more of a beautiful and well thought out reimagining. Sophie Anderson has infused every page of this book with a wonderfully imaginative world that makes me want to exist in it and get my self a house with chicken legs. I think that the story not only speaks to young reader's but older readers too as it will take them on a magical journey full of wonder.
Don’t let the fact the book is marketed as a 9 years+ book put you off reading as I think you’ll miss out on wonderful story.