cover image THE FLYING WITCH


Jane Yolen, , illus. by Vladimir Vagin. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028536-4

Two strong females dominate this Baba Yaga tale from the team behind The Firebird. Faithful to Russian tradition, the Baba Yaga featured here flies about in an enormous mortar and pestle, searching for children to capture and bring home to eat. In Yolen's version, a nameless girl triumphs over the witch, and reforms her in the bargain. After the girl falls off her father's truck on the way to market, Baba Yaga offers her a ride in her strange mode of transport. "Something is not right," the girl thinks, as the witch carries her off in the wrong direction. "But I have two good feet, a fine sense of direction, two strong arms, and a clever mind. I will get away on my own." Meticulously drafted paintings depict old Russia's onion domes, birch forests and steely gray skies. Traditional motifs and stylized forms infuse the illustrations with a strong folk flavor, as they also incorporate antique tools and peasant costumes. Baba Yaga's black fingernails and scythe-shaped iron nose mark her as a villainess. Yolen's cheerful outcome emphasizes the girl's sound judgment and friendly reconciliation with the witch, while Vagin's illustrations provide an undercurrent of ever-present danger. Ages 3-6. (Aug.)