BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: The House with Chicken Legs
Author: Sophie Anderson
Illustrator: Melissa Castrillón (cover) & Elisa Paganelli (illustrations)
Publication Date: May 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6
Over the last few months there has been a real buzz around The House With Chicken Legs, due to be published at the beginning of May. I was so excited to receive an early copy to read in advance and find out for myself what all the hype is about. Happily I can say that it did not disappoint and what I discovered was a wildly imaginative and highly unusual story (in the best of ways) brimming with wonder, magic, folklore and compassion.
Marinka is a 12-year-old girl who lives with her grandmother, Baba Yaga. Together they live in a house with chicken legs and move around from place to place, fulfilling their role of ‘guardians of the gate’ by guiding the spirits of the deceased through the gateway between life and death. Before the spirits pass through the gate, Baba Yaga listens to their stories and celebrates their life with them. Marinka’s destiny appears to be already decided; she is to train to become a Yaga like her grandmother and this means that she is never allowed to go to school or make friends with the living. Increasingly Marinka realises that she does not want to live the life of a Yaga and begins to take big risks as she experiences a rising desire to make some real friends and sample a ‘normal’ existence. What follows is an emotive coming-of-age story that sees Marinka working to resolve the tensions between her own desires and the path she is expected to follow.
Sophie Anderson is a wonderful storyteller and has very skilfully crafted a compelling and believable magical world that is an enchanting amalgamation between traditional and modern. I really enjoyed how, through Marinka’s eyes, I found myself able to explore elements of a Slavic folk story in a fresh and relatable way, and how Anderson’s emotive narrative invites the reader to meet the characters and events with a large amount of compassion.
This is a magical and captivating narrative that dances its way through darkness and light, joy and grief and life and death and I’m highly recommending it for Years 5 and 6.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy of this book.