PreS-Gr 3-A droll and utterly delightful retelling of "Baba Yaga," the Russian folklore equivalent of Cinderella. McCaughrean has changed the names but the plot details remain largely the same. After Tatia's mother dies, her father marries a vain and selfish woman with two daughters. While he is away, the stepmother sends Tatia to the witch Grandma Chickenlegs on the ruse of borrowing a needle. But rather than becoming the witch's dinner as the stepmother had hoped, the child's kindness results in her escape. Once home, she finds that her father has returned. He sends his wife and her daughters away and the two live happily ever after. With its emphasis on description and imagery, McCaughrean's text retains much of the flavor of traditional folklore. But as strong as the text is, it is Kemp's full-page colored-pencil illustrations that steal the show. Using a style that is a pleasing mix of realism and impressionism, the artist captures the fantasy inherent in the tale. With their vivid greens, reds, oranges, and blues, the lively art jumps off the page. The depictions of Grandma Chickenlegs are particularly marvelous. With her bouffant hair, bat eyeglasses, and striped stockings, this witch is more comic than threatening. Unlike other picture-book versions of this tale-Marianna Mayer's Baba Yaga & Vasilisa the Brave (Morrow, 1994) comes to mind-this one is ideally suited for younger children.-Denise Anton Wright, Alliance Library System, Bloomington, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
The familiar tale of a child surviving a visit to Baba Yaga's chicken-legged abode has never been told with more gusto. Dispatched on an errand to dreaded Grandma Chickenlegs's house by her cruel stepmother ("a woman with eyes as sharp as needles and a soul as thin as a thread"), young Tatia escapes the witch three times, due to magic help and the advice of her beloved doll, Drooga. Using twisted perspectives and vigorously applied colors, Kemp creates a set of wild, garishly lit climactic scenes dominated by the grimacing, green-skinned grannyperfect counterpart to McCaughrean's colorful prose style: "Around the garden, on four scratching, paltry poultry legs ran the rickety-rackety shack. Its fence was made from rattly bones." Reunited in the end with her long-absent father, Tatia blows off her mother's dying advice to "give and forgive," triumphantly turning stepmother and stepsisters out on the street in their underclothes. This is a rousing alternative to Nonny Hogrogian's subdued Vasilisa the Beautiful (1970) or Mariana Mayer's coldly elegant Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave (1994). (Picture book/folklore. 7-10)