Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning.
For Marinka's grandmother is Baba Yaga, who guides spirits between this world and the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and sets out to break free from her grandmother's footsteps, but her house has other ideas...
- Back Cover Blurb
I light the candles in the skulls at dusk.
- First Sentence; Guiding The Dead
I don't even notice The Gate is open until the man rises to his feet and helps his wife to hers, and they hobble slowly towards it.
'What do take with you to the stars?' I ask, suddenly remembering my role in all this, rushing to pour the spirit trost.
'The warmth of companionship.' The woman smiles and the man nods in agreement. They drink the trost, kiss my cheeks, and hold hands as they step through The Gate together.
The death journey words flow from my mouth as they drift into the blackness.
- Memorable Moment; Page 147
SOURCE ... One of several books purchased with a gift voucher from Waterstones.
READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.
MY THOUGHTS ... Only vaguely aware of the Russian folk story that is Baba Yaga thus I came to this telling by Sophie Anderson with no preconceptions.
A middle grade read or Key Stage KS2/3E so ideally suited to those aged 8 to 11 OR 9+ respectively. Not that I'd let this put you off if, like myself, you happen to be a, err, more mature reader who just so happens to enjoy folklore no matter what its intended audience. And as for those younger, perhaps more sensitive readers? Well, as an adult you may well want to check the book out first (as if you'd need an excuse) as though very much life affirming, there is no getting away from the fact that there is the underlying theme of death and dying. That said ... I can think of worse ways of introducing the subject.
The cover, eye catching; the story telling, both spell-binding, thought provoking, bittersweet; the characters (yes, even the house itself), memorable; the world building, spot on; the illustrations, sublime. Way up there as one of my favourite reads of 2018, I'd even go as far as to place it in my top 3; there's just something so special about this book, something that makes me want to shout about it from the roof tops.
Not convinced? Read an extract here.