cover image Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

Marianna Mayer. HarperCollins, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-08500-1

The creators of The Twelve Dancing Princesses offer an elaborate interpretation of this Russian folktale, which incorporates elements of Hansel and Gretel as well as the Cinderella story. Craft's paintings (reminiscent, in their ornate detailing, of those of Gennady Spirin) are embellished with florid borders, inset illustrations and fancy dropped-capital letters at the start of the text block on each spread. Her startlingly hideous depiction of Baba Yaga the crone makes the pointy-hat-and-warted-nose witch found in most fairy tales seem downright cute by comparison; the impact, however, is gravely inhibited by a legend at the bottom of the painting: ``Smoking After Meals Is One of Baba Yaga's Many Bad Habits . . . '' Mayer's stately retelling is equally formal, but maintains a natural buoyancy that enhances the book's read-aloud appeal: ``It should be no wonder, then, that Baba Yaga lives alone. Even so, from time to time, there is the occasional visitor, the stray traveler, the hapless wanderer. Few have survived the visit.'' Similar in style to Elizabeth Winthrop's Vasilissa the Beautiful , this adaptation focuses on the heroine's bravery rather than her beauty, a distinction that may be important to some. All ages. (May)