2nd February '18
It’s like a snowflake floating on the breeze… a glistening gem of a story with an air of elegance, beauty and fragility.
The House with Chicken Legs is steeped in Russian folklore in the form of a Baba Yaga mythical retelling. You may think ‘Oh, just another retelling…’ but let me assure you, that this reimagining take on this tale is absolutely something else.
How would you feel if your house got to choose where you live?
How would you feel if your house decided who you met and became friends with?
How would you feel if you had great responsibility bestowed upon you but you wanted – no, needed – to choose your own destiny?
Along the way, Marinka, the House and her trusted jackdaw, Jack meet: life – Benjamin, Benji, Salma, Lamya; death – Nina, Serina, The Old Man and his Wife; and Yaga – Baba Yaga, Old Yaga and plenty of other Yagas; to try to work out the answers to these life-changing questions.
And we haven’t even yet spoken of the House. Well what can I say? The House is larger than life with an even bigger heart; personified perfectly with oodles of charm and charisma but also tinged with a loveable rawness and roughness around the edges that’ll have you yearning and pining deeply for it. Marinka is the right kind of heroine for this story but the House is just as much as a hero for me.
The more you read on, the more Marinka will have you wanting to join her on her journey of self-discovery, fate, companionship, loyalty and affinity where houses walk (and run!); where the dead talk; and where life, death and Yaga come together in a superbly crafted story.
Sophie’s use of language is packed full of rich and vivid imagery which ensures that the words leap and dance off the page effortlessly in to the reader’s mind creating stunning worlds of magic and adventure. This is further complemented by her utterly beautiful style of writing and divine choice of vocabulary (e.g. ‘nebulous‘, ‘tendrils‘ and ‘balustrade‘ to name but a few!), which is perfect for logophiles like many teachers and I who want to introduce a broader range of vocabulary to children.
By the end, like I was, you’ll be trying your best to hold on and not say goodbye to these characters and this stunning story. But you’ll also learn some Russian; some chemistry (I loved the mentions of compounds combining to make fireworks and scientists like Rosalind Franklin); wonder why you haven’t experienced a Yaga party before and you’ll certainly want your own House with Chicken Legs after this… I know that I do.
One that needs to be in your hands as a teacher and in the hands of your class. Unmissable. I adored and devoured every single word.
A purely magical debut and an absolute must-read for 2018.