The Russian tale of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga, reillustrated for a new generation.
The folk tale is familiar to many, in itself and for its echoes of “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and even “Rumpelstiltskin.” It’s complex in structure and a little awkward in this translation, but mesmerizing illustrations carry the thread wholly to its lovely conclusion. Vasilisa’s dying mother gives her a little doll to protect her, and she needs it, as her stepmother and stepsisters work her cruelly. When they force Vasilisa to retrieve light from the fearsome Baba Yaga, the doll helps her to perform all the tasks Baba Yaga sets her to, and the light given her (a skull with blazing eye sockets) also destroys the evil stepfamily. Vasilisa takes refuge with an old woman, weaves linen so fine only the czar deserves it, and he, of course, falls in love with its weaver at once. The pictures are layered in patterns clearly inspired by Klimt, Chagall, and the spirit of surrealism, full of stars and birds and the colors of Russian lacquered boxes. The text weaves in Russian proverbs: “morning is wiser than evening.” The figure of Baba Yaga is both gorgeous and terrifying: half woman, half bird, all magical.
Older children and art students will respond warmly. (Picture book/folk tale. 8-12)