cover image The Black Geese: A Baba Yaga Story from Russia

The Black Geese: A Baba Yaga Story from Russia

Jessica Souhami, Alison Lurie, DK Publishing. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2558-4

Baba Yaga, the powerful hag of Russian folklore, comes to spine-tingling life in Lurie's (The Heavenly Zoo) lean, suspenseful retelling of a well-loved tale. When her parents must go to market, Elena is left at home to look after her baby brother. In the Russia of old, baby-sitting also means keeping watch for Baba Yaga's black geese, which snatch children for their mistress to eat. Elena lets her attention wander and soon her brother is astride one of the black geese, winging its way to Baba Yaga's dinner table. In hot pursuit of the baby, Elena passes three creatures in need, and though she doesn't want to tarry, Elena takes time to aid the fish, squirrel and mouse. As in most folktales, the magic gifts from the grateful creatures eventually repay her kindness and help Elena outmaneuver Baba Yaga. Souhami's (Rama and the Demon King) cut-paper collage illustrations feature a rich watercolor palette, spryly accented with pen and ink. The building blocks of her art are simple geometric shapes, arranged with sophistication. The characters' hands, for example, don't quite meet the arms, and the arms don't quite meet the torsos--the result is a loose-jointed and dynamic look suggestive of a skillfully worked marionette show. A fresh new take on a perennial favorite. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)