Friday, May 26, 2017

Baba Yaga's Assistant - Marika McCoola; Emily Carroll

Must have skills in hauling, obeying orders, cooking, and cleaning. Magical talent a bonus. Must be good with heights. Enter Baba Yaga's house to apply.

Most children think twice before braving a haunted wood filled with terrifying beasties to match wits with a witch, but not Masha. Her beloved grandma taught her many things: that stories are useful, that magic is fickle, and that nothing is too difficult or too dirty to clean. The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. She may be clever enough to enter Baba Yaga's house on chicken legs, but within its walls, deceit is the rule. To earn her place, Masha must pass a series of tests, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her host. No easy task, with children on the menu!

Wry, spooky and poignant, Marika McCoola's debut--with richly layered art by acclaimed graphic artist Emily Carroll--is a storytelling feat and a visual fest.  (Summary and picture from

My Review: So, strolling through the graphic novel section of the library (it's what I do), I spotted the name 'Baba Yaga' on a book spine and snatched it up without even hesitating.  I'm morbidly fascinated by weird dark fairy tales so, hence, my love of Baba Yaga stories.

For the uninitiated, Baba Yaga is a witch from Russian folklore.  She presents impossible tasks, eats children, and lives in a house that walks around on giant chicken legs.  When she's tired of that, she flies around the land in a mortar and pestle.  All around spooky and haunting.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a quick read, but it did a lovely job of intertwining past, present and fairy tale, especially Masha's belief in the fabled witch even during modern times.  It presented a new story while hearkening back to other Baba Yaga stories within the tale.  Using her knowledge of Baba Yaga folklore, shared with her by her late grandmother, Masha is able to weave her way into this mythical world and work out some personal problems along the way.  I love when a character uses stories or fairy tales to help them in any situation, because stories have a way of helping us prepare for the world around us, and that's a theme I love finding in any book.

The art was fantastic, especially every time Baba Yaga was on the scene.  Her character design was delightful, and there was just enough danger in her looks while at the same time a feeling that she's not always what the stories make her out to be.  I felt the artist captured her essence very well, and it was very emotive and colorful, adding to the story.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive, just mildly spooky (it is Baba Yaga, after all).

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