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