cover image Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll

Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll

Hiawyn Oram. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45947-7

The august skills of Oram (Badger's Bring Something Party) and Brown (Cry Baby) create a droll yet affecting take on a Russian fairy tale. Earthy colors and the dramatic manipulation of light and shadow mark the artist's sweeping full-bleed spreads, from which a cherubic waif named Too Nice stares out with mesmerizing brown eyes. Her sisters, Horrid and Very Horrid, demand that Too Nice bring to them one of Baba Yaga's dapper Toads (bedecked in jeweled vests and diamond collars). But first, she must complete a series of tasks at the witch's bidding (e.g., separating out a pile of dirt and poppy seeds). With the help of a small doll, a gift from her deceased mother, Too Nice accomplishes her mission and returns home with a seemingly benign Toad who nonetheless gobbles up the greedy siblings. Oram's clever twist in inventing sisters more horrid than the sorceress will likely amuse even die-hard fairy tale fans, while Brown spares youngsters potentially scary scenes in favor of depicting more frivolous moments: Baba Yaga's house sprouts chicken legs to carry her through the forest; food flies as the witch and her Toads prance on the table, alongside a jovial dancing cauldron. Learning a sound lesson, Too Nice changes her name to Just About Right--a fine description for this clever and elegant book as well. Ages 3-6. (Feb.)