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Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

4.7 4
by Marianna Mayer, Kinuko Y. Craft (Illustrator)

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Sweet, lovely Vasilisa lives with her jealous stepmother and stepsisters on the edge of a dark forest inhabited by the evil witch Baba Yaga. One night the stepmother sends Vasilisa to visit Baba Yaga, an errand from which the gentle girl has little chance of returning alive. "An engaging text and accomplished paintings set this version apart....A stylized and


Sweet, lovely Vasilisa lives with her jealous stepmother and stepsisters on the edge of a dark forest inhabited by the evil witch Baba Yaga. One night the stepmother sends Vasilisa to visit Baba Yaga, an errand from which the gentle girl has little chance of returning alive. "An engaging text and accomplished paintings set this version apart....A stylized and classy offering."—School Library Journal.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Interesting new children's books based on traditional tales made me realize you can begin a casual course in comparative literature and art with children as young as six. In the past year I have seen at least four new children's picture book versions of the Russian folktale of Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is the famous Russian witch who lives in a hut with chicken legs and loves to eat children. In this book, my favorite new traditional version, Mayer honors magic, mystery, and words in telling a tale of a heroine who's much like Cinderella, but has pluck and courage that earn her happy ending. The illustrations show one of the most frightening witches I've ever seen in a children's book.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-An engaging text and accomplished paintings set this version apart from the recent crop of retellings of this popular Russian variant of the Cinderella tale. After the death of her father, Vasilisa is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters; her only comfort is the magical doll made by her mother before she died. Sent to Baba Yaga's house to fetch a light, the girl becomes the witch's servant and is given a series of impossible tasks to perform. With the help of her doll, she pleases the demanding hag, who sends her home with the precious light. After it destroys her stepmother and stepsisters, Vasilisa goes to live with an elderly woman and learns to spin and weave. She creates an exquisite piece of cloth that catches the attention of the tsar. He seeks out its maker, finds the heroine, and asks for her hand in marriage. Mayer's graceful prose conveys both the wonder and power of the tale. Complementing the text are Craft's illustrations done in a mixture of watercolor, gouache, and oils. The palette of red and gold set against a dark background resembles Russian folk-art paintings on black-lacquered wood. The pictures are often dark, and the depiction of Baba Yaga is not for the weakhearted. The use of decorative capital letters, elegant typeface, and small drolleries add to the visual appeal of each page. A stylized and classy offering that's ideal for older picture-book audiences.-Denise Anton Wright, Illinois State University, Normal
Hazel Rochman
In a lush romantic version of an old Russian fairy tale, beautiful Vasilisa is sent by her evil stepmother on a dangerous journey to the ancient and terrible witch Baba Yaga. Of course, good Vasilisa triumphs; she returns to defeat her stepmother and marry the czar. She's helped by her secret companion, a little live doll, who acts as mentor and friend during the cruelties Vasilisa suffers and the menial tasks she must perform. But the story begins and ends with Baba Yaga in her hut made of human bones deep in the dark forest. She's scary, and the story doesn't play that down--on each fencepost surrounding her house "a hollow-eyed skull sat glaring"--yet the pictures keep the gruesomeness at a distance. One full-front portrait of Baba Yaga is amazing, her lined face like a beautiful ancient map, her steel nails clutching a pipe made of a skull (though for some reason, probably P.C. in nature, a note on the picture admonishes that "smoking after meals was one of Baba Yaga's many bad habits"). With elaborately decorated borders and illuminated first letters on each page, the illustrations contrast the angelic, light-filled domain of Vasilisa, pastoral and domestic, with the dark shadows of the witch. Both are powerful.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Marianna Mayer lives in Roxbury, Connecticut.

"I see folktales and myths as humankind's first stories," says Marianna Mayer. "They are a kind of collective dreaming, filled with timeless symbols and images we can all relate to, regardless of age or culture. And, much as an oyster must be disturbed by a grain of sand in order for the pearl to be created, I often choose to retell stories in which I find unresolved fragments that are somehow perplexing to me."

Though widely known as a children's book writer, Marianna Mayer's early education focused on visual art. "It seems to me there was never a time when I didn't want to be an artist, " she says. "I liked to tell stories with pictures and compose music. My sister and I put on plays made up from my stories. And then I decided to start writing a book, at the age of nine." She published her first book at the age of nineteen. After college, she studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City. Her experiences as an artist provided many images that she began to incorporate into writing. Gradually, she shifted to the written word as a medium of expression. She explains, "I began to feel more freedom when using words as my paints and plots as my canvases.

"While in the midst of a writing project, I live so much in my mind that what takes place in my imagination becomes quite real to me. I try to become part of the culture of a particular tale as much as possible. While working on Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, for example, I read all I could about Russia. What I learned about Slavic mythology helped to deepen my understanding of the story. I listened to Russian music, ate Russian food (which I love!), and tried in other small ways to enter into the essence of that culture."

"My writing is deeply personal. First and foremost I write for the child who still lives within me. Then to the child in others, whether that child resides in a young person or an adult. I'm striving to reach out to that spirit of wonder within us all. The stories I was told as a child, those half-remembered folktales and myths, have become the foundation for what I continue to work on in my books. The sense of hope that books instilled in me as a child saw me through many difficult times. Because of this, I choose characters who face overwhelming odds but triumph through courage and perseverance. Similarly, myth allows a child to believe in his or her own dreams and can instill a boundless hope for the future."

Kinuko Y. Craft has won more than one hundred graphic-arts awards, including five gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. In 2008, she was inducted into their Hall of Fame. Her art has been in print for almost half a century, appearing on the covers of such prestigious publications as Time and Newsweek. Her illustrated books on Greek myths and of classic fairy tales have been published in the United States and other English-language countries, and in Europe, China, and Korea. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Every detail of her work—the flowers by a spring, a red cloak unfurled against a blue sky, moonlight on a tiger's back—is beautifully rendered." Beauty and the Beast is her ninth illustrated book.

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Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This selection is an outstanding find, but not suitable for children, especially the third grade populace in which I first found 'Baba Yaga'. I cannot with a clear concious recommend this book anyone younger than 12 years of age, if that. The story is typical - the Cinderella myth- yet with an exotic twist that only the Russian culture can exhibit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I remember finding this book in the library when I was 11 and just fell in love with it. Anyone who loves fairy tales or is a hopeless romantic should read it. And the pictures! The art is AMAZING!!! Although, I do agree with the review saying it's not for younger children. It can be a little dark, and might be disturbing to some younger kids, but it is a very well told story.
Guest More than 1 year ago