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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola

 Hi there!
 Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.
Today, we're shining the spotlight on a title fresh from the presses (okay, it released last month) and ready for your upcoming SPOOKY to read list.  It takes a folktale of old, gives it a good shake of here and now, and presents us with a final presentation that is appealing both word wise and visually.  Yes, my friends.  We're going where this reader doesn't go very often but in the Middle Grade variety of things...the Graphic Novel!  Ready, set, here it comes.  Today's book of choice is...
Marika McCoola
Illustrated by
Emily Carroll
Candlewick Press
About the book...
Most children think twice before braving a haunted wood filled with terrifying beasties to match wits with a witch, but not Masha. Her beloved grandma taught her many things: that stories are useful, that magic is fickle, that nothing is too difficult or too dirty to clean. The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. She may be clever enough to enter Baba Yaga’s house-on-chicken-legs, but within its walls, deceit is the rule. To earn her place, Masha must pass a series of tests, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her host. No easy task, with children on the menu!
 I don't know about you but when this witch of old starts creeping her way into the conversation, I'm thinking HALLOWEEN!  I know, I know.  She's not just around at that time of year and it's children she's really after according to legend (Whew!  Positive side of being an adult!), but for me her epic creepiness goes hand in hand with pumpkins, scary stories, dark moonless nights, and creatures howling at the moon.  Just the way my mind works.  Anywho...
From the moment I opened the cover, I was already surprised. Well, truly I was prior to the opening because really, did you catch a glimpse of that cover?  Uber creepy!  But I digress...moving past the fab cover and into the story, I did not see that opening coming.  It spoke about family and togetherness with such a straight forward, realistic approach you don't normally find in MG lit.  Here, the girls are not fond of each other or the fact that they may become step-siblings and they let you know it, point blank.  The rivalry that ensues pushes Masha to seek out a life she's only imagined but what she in turn discovers is something far greater.  Lessons on the value of honesty, the importance of caring for others, and how much family truly means, are but a few of those found within...all learned while enjoying the visual feast provided by the illustrations.  (Still can't get over the house's appearance!)
All in all, this is one spooky read that combines a little of the old with a little of the new making it easier for today's youth to connect with.  It's great when a book can balance on the edutainment line without anyone truly being the wiser.  Hey, folklore and myths are a part of our histories.  There is always some kernel of truth to them, no matter how small.  Here the lessons learned (outside of how to outsmart Baba Yaga...though those are rather handy, just in case) are what will carry forward with you after book's end. 
About the author...
Marika McCoola has an MA in writing for children from Simmons College and is a former children’s book buyer at an independent bookstore in Massachusetts. Baba Yaga’s Assistant marks her publishing debut. She lives in Massachusetts.
About the illustrator...
Emily Carroll is the author-illustrator of the acclaimed and best-selling graphic story collection Through the Woods, as well as numerous web comics. She lives in Stratford, Ontario.
Special thanks to Raquel at Candlewick Press for the ARC for review.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this title, the author, the illustrator, or the publisher, feel free to click through the links provided above.  This title was released August 2015, so be on the lookout for it on a bookstore shelf or virtual retailer of your choosing. 
Until next time...happy reading!

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