My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Published: September 25th, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Friendship
All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with. But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day. So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.
Marinka lives in a house with chicken legs, and her grandmother is Baba Yaga. You think it couldn’t get any stranger than that?
But it can. Not only does her house move on its own and is a living, breathing creature, it also attracts ghosts. It has a bone gate and everything. Marinka’s grandmother is actually a guardian, someone who helps the dead cross over.
Interesting, right? The way I view this story, it’s not a retelling of the original Baba Yaga tale, but does draw some inspiration from it. The author is not Russian, and sadly it shows, because this Russian folklore-inspired story is rather westernized.
So part of me does wish that Sophie Anderson had done more research on Russian folklore, and actually taught children something as opposed to simply telling a story, but another part of me also likes what she did here. It’s very focused on human (and creature) emotion, more than fantasy elements.
After all, all that Marinka wants is a friend. Unfortunately, because the chicken leg house moves too often and her family business is, well, *unique*, Marinka can’t exactly invite people to her house. Besides, if she walks further away from the house than allowed, bad things happen.
I’m disappointed about the fact that the first friend Marinka makes is gone for most of the story, whereas other characters remain longer, since he was rather charming and I wanted to get to know him better. But I genuinely enjoyed myself reading this one. It’s fast-paced, devoid of unnecessary description, easy to understand and contains some twists and turns you will not see coming.
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