Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Marika McCoola

Illustrated by Emily Carroll

Baba Yaga is an iconic figure in Russian folklore, a fearsome witch who intimidates others with various degrees of terrifying magic. Masha, on the other hand, is a modern-day teenager with problems. Her mother has died, and her father, a scientist, has just proposed to another woman and seems eager to move on. When Masha sees a help-wanted ad from Baba Yaga for an assistant, she decides to apply. Her father does not seem to care about her anymore, so what does she have to lose—except, perhaps, her life? The reader is taken on a wild and enchanted journey as Masha matches wits with a witch and does battle with fantastic woodland creatures. Can she win the job? And if she does, will her father even care if Masha leaves her family to live with a witch? There are no easy answers as fiction and reality collide in this inventive, imaginative graphic novel. Despite its unusual subject matter, however, at the heart of this tale is the universal theme of loss, death, and abandonment. Readers who have lost a loved one will recognize themselves in Masha as she tries to cope with grief and survive in a universe in which everything has changed. The illustrations are rich in color and content; and, equally important, are easy to follow and understand. An unconventional myth with a very human theme, this book will reward and touch readers who willing to suspend belief and enter into a blended world of fact and fancy.

Reviewer: Leona Illig

George

by Alex Gino

George has a secret and it is time to tell the world. In order to do so, George must play the role of Charlotte in the school’s upcoming play so that everyone will know that, despite the male body she was born into, she is actually a girl. After being told that only a girl can play the part, George and her best friend Kelly hatch a plan so that her family and everyone will see her for who she really is. The reader gets a unique look into George’s mind as she struggles to come out to her best friend, winces at the mention of her future as a man, fends off school bullies, and hopes for acceptance from her family. Beautifully written, this story is a much-needed perspective on transgendered youth and the trials and triumphs they go through. The author takes such a complex topic and, through the eyes of a ten-year-old child, simplifies it. The writing is age appropriate and would make an excellent choice for a classroom book. It could also be an incredibly eye-opening story for any child who struggles with gender identity.

Reviewer: Amy McLaughlin

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by Ekua Homels

Fannie Lou Townsend was the youngest of twenty children born to sharecropper parents in the Mississippi Delta. Brought up with a clear sense of the indignities she and her family suffered at the hands of the local plantation owner, her family’s white neighbors, and the state government, Fannie Lou determined as an adult that she would stand up for what was right and pursued her right to vote. Over the years, Fannie Lou did gain the right to vote and became a vocal member of the civil rights movement, serving in various leadership roles. Beaten and jailed, with her life threatened because of her participation, Fannie continued her fight, working alongside Freedom Fighters and eventually running for office. Fannie’s story is told in verse, and meshes well with the illustrations that underscore both the darkness that Fannie Lou fought against as well as the brightness and creativity that emanated from her spirited attack on racism in this country. This is a great text to promote interest in the American civil rights movement.

Reviewer: Jean Boreen