Hardcover, 132 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Candlewick Press
- The reason I picked up Baba Yaga’s Assistant was due to Emily Carroll and my increasing love of her art.
- I expected to like the story but didn’t think I would love it as much.
- The premise is pretty simple so I shall attempt to sum it up instead of using the official synopsis.
- Masha’s mother died when she was young and her maternal grandma brought her with a staple diet of stories in which she escaped from the Russian witch Baba Yaga using her wits and some bric-a-brac she had on her person.
- But Masha’s grandma dies too and she is left with her dad who is a scientific person and has no time, it seems, for Masha and her stories. One day he tells Masha that he is getting remarried and Masha finds that her father seems to have replaced her with another family. One in which there is already a daughter present.
- Hurt, Masha looks for another place to belong and finds an advertisement for Baba Yaga’s assistant. Intrigued she takes her stuff and leaves her house, determined to find her happiness with Baba Yaga…which is sort of revolutionary what with her being a witch and eating children and all.
- But hey, Masha is nothing if not determined.
- Baba Yaga is a prickly character and gives Masha all sorts of tests to pass before she will accept her as an assistant and the story deals largely with how Masha acquits herself in these tests.
- I loved this book. I have a soft spot for Baba Yaga especially after Gregory Maguire’s Egg & Spoon which contains a glorious iteration of her.
- Baba Yaga is just a wonderfully odd character–sometimes she is drawn as evil and without mercy, other times her motivations and actions are rendered complex by little things that would take a more intuitive reader to realize. I won’t give it away here but give her actions a little more thought in this book and you will begin to realize that she is a craftier person than you thought.
- The reason I most loved this book, though, is because it gave with such a variety of female characters. The witty girl who evades captures and lives on to become Masha’s grandma, the supposedly evil Baba Yaga, the bratty step-sister, the potentially evil step-mother (we don’t really see much of her to form an opinion on her evilness), and Masha herself. All women have different desires and motivations and what one woman/girl wants is not the same as the other.
- And yes, I realize how sad it is that such a thing would be worth writing about and not taken as a matter of fact but it is what it is.
- Masha’s father is a waste of time and not worth the effort of writing about. Meh.
- The book is meant for middle grade audiences if not younger kids but honestly, it has a lot of crossover potential so it’s ideal for everyone who likes good stories.
- The art, as if it even needs to be said, is fantastic of course.
- Read this!