The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
The House with Chicken Legs
All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with. But that's tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife.

The House With Chicken Legs is a beautiful tale about love, friendship, loss, grief and bereavement – all wrapped up in a fable-like story. Sophie Anderson has woven such magic between the pages that one cannot walk away from this book without being changed.

Every night is party night at Marinka her house with food, drink, music and lively conversations. But all the guests are dead.

Marinka her grandmother is a Yaga, someone who guides the recently dead through The Gate so they can make their way back to the stars. Marinka is expected to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, but she is desperate for a healthy life, where she can make friends with the living. But can she change her destiny or is her fate predetermined and unalterable?

Loosely based on the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga, Marinka her story is magical, delightfully macabre and utterly engrossing. Skilful storytelling reimagines ancient folklore while addressing issues such as bullying, bereavement, and taking control of your future, which will resonate with many young people.

Baba used to say it is not how long life, but how sweet a life that counts, and I think maybe the same is true with friendships. I am not sure how long I will get to spend with Benjamin, but I will appreciate the time I have.

Sophie Anderson delivers a beautifully crafted story and in doing so has created a fable-like tale that will live long in the memory, incorporating a rich tapestry of imagery that sparks the mind and ignites the heart. The House With Chicken Legs navigates themes which are challenging at the best of time, but Anderson will have you eating out of the palm of her hand – as she regales you with this modern interpretation of Slavic folklore which is impossible to put down.

The world of the Yagas was intriguing and beautifully evoked, with very immersive and visual writing. The world felt so much more extensive and more luxurious than just the small bits of it we saw, with a long implied history. This world felt fully-realised.

Marinka’s desperation to have a friend leads to her making a decision that will have a profound impact on her life, a choice which also leads to some breath-taking revelations. This story is magnificently crafted, from the profoundly engaging plot, with gripping action, to the magical quality of the writing, to the bringing to life of characters who I became emotionally invested in.

Marinka is just the most wonderfully brave and fallible young girl with an inner strength that I marvelled at: I adored her, all the more so because she is not perfect. She is a whirlpool of so many emotions that tumble from her tumultuous heart. She has the tenacity to reach for her destiny. She is full of anger and frustration at the life she is expected to lead, and yet, she is a young girl on a journey of self-discovery whose triumph is in finding her place in the world.

This novel is a perfect story for anyone interested in Slavic folklore, or just a brilliant story, and one which completely entranced me from start to finish. The artwork is stunning from the front cover (by Melissa Castrillon) to the inside illustrations (by Elisa Paganelli) and enhances the magical quality of this remarkable story.

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