Sunday, January 24, 2016

McCoola, Marika. Baba Yaga’s Assistant.

McCoola, Marika.  Baba Yaga’s Assistant.  Candlewick Press  2015  127p.  $16.99  ISBN 978-0-7636-6961-4  hs  Graphic novel  VG-BN      

“ASSISTANT WANTED ASAP: 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.”

To earn her place in Baba Yaga’s house, Masha must pass a series of tests, outwit a bear, and prepare a meal for her employer.  Since Baba Yaga eats children, this is no small task.  Readers unfamiliar with folktales about Baba Yaga may find elements of this story confusing, as the context is nebulous.  There are brief retellings of several traditional Baba Yaga tales, but the primary emphasis is about family relationships, particularly that of Masha and her grandmother.  Those readers familiar with tales
about Baba Yaga will see another side of her, beyond the “wicked witch” reputation.

The brightly colored illustrations, with folk
-art elements, are appealing to young audiences, but the text and protagonist are geared to young adults.  Emily Caroll’s illustrations will delight fans of Through the Woods.  Marika McCoola’s debut novel is a solid success for a promising new talent.

Summary: Why would a young woman apprentice herself to an evil witch?  Masha becomes Baba Yaga’s apprentice in a new approach to the Russian folk tales about the legendary witch.    

Folk Tales-Fiction, Witches-Fiction                         --Hilary Welliver

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