'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 18 May 2020

The House with Chicken Legs

This book took me by surprise. A middle grade Slavic fairy tale retelling about a house that walks around on chicken legs, a grandmother that guides the dead to the next world, and a girl struggling with her destiny, that is told with such heart and emotion that it is hard not to shed a tear.

Mariska lives with her grandmother, Baba Yaga, whose job it is to guide people who die from this world to the next. Mariska knows she is destined to one day take over from her grandmother but she doesn’t want to be a Yaga. She can’t bear the thought of listening to the dead and guiding them through the gate.

The house Mariska lives in has chicken legs and its own personality. As with all Yaga houses, it gets up and walks (or runs) to its next destination whenever it feels like it. 

The house never stays in one place long enough for Mariska to make friends. Not that she can anyway given she’s not supposed to go beyond the house’s fence.

As much as she loves Baba Yaga, Mariska is lonely and longs for a life beyond the house. She wants to explore, to meet people, to have fun. Baba keeps telling her that if she would just listen to the stories of the people that pass through their house to the next life, then she will live through them. But Mariska wants her own life experiences, not someone else’s.

This is really a story of self-discovery. Of being willing to open your eyes and understand what is in front of you, but also to follow your own path and share what’s really important to you so that others understand.

This book deals with issues of life and death but its overall message is positive. It’s a bit of a tearjerker, as Mariska has to experience hardship and push through the ramifications of her desire to break away from tradition, to come to an understanding of what her future will be. But in the process, she also changes those around her for the better.

A beautifully and sensitively written middle grade fantasy story that is surprisingly relatable to all those who love their family but yearn to forge their own path.

Title: The House with Chicken Legs
Author: Sophie Anderson
Publisher: Usborne Publishing, $14.99
Publication Date: 21 May 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781474940665
For ages: 8+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction