Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Baba Yaga's Assistant

Following my recent foray down the scary book road of The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel - I was intrigued by the cover of Baba Yaga's Assistant, a new graphic novel by debut author Marika McCoola who "researched Russian folklore and fell in love with this sassy witch."


Can witches really be sassy? 

Well, apparently they can - because McCoola has created a Baba Yaga that is part trickster, part witch, and part mentor to a brave teen named Masha. Masha's beloved grandmother taught her many things in life, including the Baba Yaga tales, which are filled with magic and cleverness. Baba Yaga advertises for an assistant - and since Masha feels abandoned by her father, who has moved onto a new family since her mother died, she decides to apply.

To earn her place as Baba Yaga's assistant, Masha must pass a series of tests, including entering a house perched high above the ground on gigantic chicken legs, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her future boss - with children on the menu!

The full color artwork, by Emily Carroll is moody and full of everything delightfully creepy: pointy teeth, knarled and bony hands, and beady evil eyes that seem to follow the reader across the page. The clever use of borders around panels that are re-tellings of the Baba Yaga stories help separate the story into different sections and move the plot forward at a fast pace. 

Masha is an outspoken, yet loving character who clearly yearns for her mother and grandmother. Her stepmother's daughter Dani, who is extremely jealous of Masha, figures into the story when Baba Yaga presents three caged children to Masha and proclaims "All you need to do now is cook it, my dear."

Will Masha's cunning wit, and the memory of her Grandmother's Baba Yaga stories, be enough to help her pass the witch's tests? Ask to borrow Baba Yaga's Assistant to find out! 

Does Masha know enough of the Baba Yaga stories to figure out how to do magic herself to trick the witch?

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