Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Cover illustrated by Melissa Castrillon
The title and cover originally sold this book for me - I mean who doesn’t want to read about a magical retelling of the Slavic folk tale Baba Yaga and a house with chicken legs?! But from the first page I was utterly captivated.
The House with Chicken Legs is literally brimming with magic and wonder, life and death, beauty and heart. The story follows twelve-year-old Marinka who longs to change her destiny and break free from her grandmother’s footsteps to become the next Guardian of guiding the dead through the Gate. She dreams of having a normal life and making friends, but how can she have this life when her house controls where they go and how long they stay. Determined to fight against her destiny, Marinka is a headstrong and heartfelt heroine, with an extraordinary past. Although a little selfish and oblivious to the consequences of her dreams, you can’t help but feel for and grow with Marinka throughout her story of self-discovery.
The story touches on a lot of important themes including the concept of destiny and the importance in shaping our own futures and dreams. But it also touches on the concept of death, grief and letting go which is rarely explored in middle grade literature. Whilst a difficult subject, Anderson handles the cycle of life and death masterfully and solidifies the importance of this through cherishing life and celebrating the lives of those passed on. Anderson’s writing is beautiful, lyrical and full of depth. Her words effortlessly dance off the page making for a quick and easy read to get lost in. And not to mention her choice of curious and wonderful Russian proverbs - they had me transported to new worlds from the very comfort of my home. As for the interior illustrations by Elisa Paganelli, they brought even more life and meaning to the story, capturing the magic of Anderson’s world perfectly.
I can’t wait to read whatever Sophie Anderson writes next - because if this purely magical debut is anything to go by then we’re in for an absolute treat with her next book!