cover image Grandma Chickenlegs

Grandma Chickenlegs

Geraldine McCaughrean. Carolrhoda Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57505-415-5

This spirited retelling of a classic Russian folktale about the witch Baba Yaga fairly vibrates with vigorous images. A heartless stepmother who has ""eyes as sharp as needles and a soul as thin as a thread"" orders sweet Tatia to borrow a needle from Grandma Chickenlegs, certain she is sending Tatia to her death. But through kindness and a little magic, Tatia escapes Grandma Chickenlegs's fearsome clutches. McCaughrean's (The Golden Hoard) language is refreshingly original. The witch's front door, for example, ""swung on its hinges, squealing like a thing in pain""; the house itself is a ""rickety-rackety shack"" that runs around the garden atop ""four scratching, paltry poultry legs."" Kemp's (the Helpful Betty books) colored pencil illustrations skate perilously close to garish in places and don't live up to the promise of the cover art--a wonderfully outrageous image in shades of orange and chartreuse of two scrawny legs encased in striped stockings and a pair of flagrantly ugly lace-up shoes. But the interior art, too, is larded with witty touches: Grandma's iron-fanged dentures sit in a cup on the nightstand, fabric on her loom bears a broom motif, a chimney cap takes the shape of a witch's hat. Rollicking fun from start to finish. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)