Book number ten! The House With Chicken Legs was actually Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month which is one of the reasons I snapped it up.
This cutie managed to snake its way to the front of my read pile because it tugged at my heart strings. My favourite book growing up was ‘Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll’ which focuses on the incredible Baba Yaga and her walking house. Some iterations (including my childhood favourite) show Yaga as creepy and powerful. Anderson’s version, however, taps into the maternal side of Yaga’s character.
The book develops the idea of Yagas in Russian folklore: travelling houses which contain Guardians (Yagas) who guide the recently dead into the afterlife. Marinka happens to be Baba Yaga’s granddaughter who is a little underwhelmed by the job of Yaga. She loves watching the ceremony and the guiding, but she is desperately lonely and is intrigued by the living.
The book follows Marinka’s many mistakes as she grows into her role as a Yaga. There are some brilliantly intertwined versions of magic realism and human emotion. The writing is definitely aimed at a younger reader, but it wasn’t distracting at all. If you’re a prose snob, this one isn’t for you. I, personally, was charmed by the story and I didn’t care that it was aimed at someone younger than me. You know how they brought out those ‘special’ covers of the first Harry Potter book so that adults could read it in public without being ashamed? Utter shite, in my opinion. Who gives a fuck what you’re reading? You’re reading. Who cares what the ‘recommended age’ is?
The only disappointment in this book (aside from the predictability of the plot) was how kind Baba Yaga was. I understand that Anderson was purposefully channelling this motherly version of the legend, but I was bitterly disappointed. The Yaga I know eats children and has eyes that glow red and has pet toads with jewelled collars and dances on her own dining table in her pointy boots. I missed that Yaga.
If you want to read about a sassy bird called Jack, a house which feels, a pre-teen with unusual angst and a lamb called Benji then definitely pick up this book!
Read what you want, just read.