Book Review: The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Before I write sensible words about this story, can we admire how utterly gorgeous this book is? The cover is just stunning, and the illustrations inside are beautiful. I could stare at them all day long.

img_20180523_203244_6898250767890331507830.jpg

Marinka lives with her Baba and her pet jackdaw in a house with chicken legs. Baba is a Yaga, one who guides the dead into the afterlife, and her house moves all over the world to wherever she is most needed, never staying in one place for too long. This life sounds like a dream (I 900% want to be a Yaga when I grow up), but for Marinka, it is anything but. She wants so very much to be a normal girl.

“I wish my house was a normal house, down there, with the living. I wish my family was a normal family, too. But my house has chicken legs and my grandmother is a Yaga and a Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next.”

Marinka is destined to become the next Yaga when her grandmother passes, but she really doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t want to spend her life with the dead, and she cannot bear to think about how her first job would be to guide her own grandmother through the Gate.

Others find the beauty in this role, but Marinka finds it “pointless getting to know the dead when we’ll never see them again”. She wants more than just passing friendships with dead people. I thought the ceremony of sitting with the dead, sharing a meal with them and discovering what was most important to them was beautiful.

In her desperation to find a friend, Marinka tries to conceal one of the dead in the house, with devastating consequences. She finds herself alone for the first time. She is scared and has no idea what to do, but she will do anything, even trick her house and the other Yaga to get Baba back. She is determined that she won’t guide the dead, but this is what the house lives for and without spirits to care for and guide, the house starts to fall apart. It is a beautiful metaphor.

Marinka makes some friends in the living: two girls and another Yaga. The Yaga tries to help her, to get her to open up and to be honest about what she wants to do. The girls turn out not to be the kind of people Marinka first thought they were, and she is hurt by this, but she learns an important lesson:

“There are more good people than bad people in this world. You just have to be careful, and choose your friends wisely.”

The House with Chicken Legs is a beautiful book, inside and out, and if you haven’t read it yet, you really must. I loved that this book brought death as a subject out into the open. It’s something that affects us all, even children, and this book would be a great way to broach the subject with younger readers without scaring them.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: