The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson: Book Review

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The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson Book Cover
Title: The House with Chicken Legs
Content Warning: Grief, Death

My Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Marinka’s parents died a long time ago so she only has her Baba (grandmother) and their house with chicken legs. Oh, and the dead souls that Baba Yaga helps cross into the afterlife. Every night is a party as Baba Yaga hosts the dead, listens to their stories, and blesses them on their journeys.

But Marinka is lonely. The house with chicken legs never stays in one place for long and Marinka and her Baba don’t control their moves. Marinka never gets a chance to make any living friends. The house is fun but she wants someone her own size and age to play with. And she definitely doesn’t want to take Baba’s place as a Yaga (a guardian of the Gate to the afterlife). But Marinka’s choices are limited. Can she find a way forward?

My Review:

I can see the reason that this book is rated so highly on GoodReads. I understand why the author included some events, but my own history of grief led me to interpret them in a different way than intended and lower my own rating. To explain further would give away some major plot points so I’ll have to leave it there.

Part of me admires Marinka for wanting so much more than what she’s been given. Who doesn’t want friends and a choice in how to live their lives? And being a Yaga is a true calling that she just doesn’t feel. No one can force something like that.

But she largely comes across as a selfish brat to me. Weren’t most of us selfish brats at age 12? I know I was. But she makes choices that have serious consequences for a lot of people. She isn’t ignorant of the consequences–she just puts her own needs first. Some of her problems could have been addressed if she had only been honest about her feelings with the people around her. Baba repeatedly gives her the opportunity to open up but she just keeps saying that she’s happy to train as a Yaga. Meanwhile, she’s keeping some dangerous secrets.

The house is a character all its own and one of my favorites. I honestly felt that it deserved better than Marinka. The house doesn’t speak but it finds ways to communicate. It tries so hard to make Marinka happy but she just takes it for granted and doesn’t take very good care of it.

There were a couple of beautiful quotes though. This is the blessing that the Yaga says just before the dead pass through the Gates to the afterlife (it changes slightly from soul to soul):

“May you have strength on the long and arduous journey ahead. The stars are calling for you. Move on with gratitude for your time on Earth. Every moment now an eternity. You carry with you memories of infinite value, the love of your family and home…. Peace at returning to the stars. The great cycle is complete.”

This is a thoughtful quote too:

“Baba used to say it’s not how long a life but how sweet a life that counts, and I think maybe the same is true with friendships. I’m not sure how long I will get to spend with Benjamin, but I will appreciate the time I have…. Nobody is yours to keep. Nothing is forever.”

I am truly in the minority in my feelings for this book so if you’re interested in a story about Baba Yaga, or a troubled middle-grade character who does eventually learn some truths about life, give this one a try.

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  1. Hi Jen! I’ve seen this one around and I love the title and cover. Although I had no idea what it was about!

    Now I have a clearer picture and am still interested. Love your honest review.

    Take care!

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