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The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh
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The Door by the Staircase

by Katherine Marsh

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567210,933 (4.21)3
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Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes is miserable. She is so miserable that she attempts an escape up the small, sooty stovepipe from the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies, where, as an older child, there’s literally no chance of getting adopted, especially when the head mistress dislikes you. So when an old woman with a big nose, Madame Z, shows up to adopt her, she’s sure her luck may be changing. However, even with warm clothes, scrumptious and plentiful food, her own room, and the apparent kindness and generosity of Madame Z, she begins to notice some odd things—like the strange town with its unusual businesses, the extremely large oven, the locked door by the staircase, and some increasingly peculiar things about her new “mother”. Mary discovers that she has a choice between fear and flight, or perhaps what might be an even more difficult choice. Just when parts of this story begin to sound somewhat familiar, there are some surprising twists. I loved this compelling story with its strong, interesting, well-developed characters, and was surprised at how difficult it was to put this book down. Written for tweens, you too will enjoy this funny, heart-warming fantasy.

Sharyn H. / Marathon County Public Library
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  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
A brilliant mix of magic and fairy tale. This links to the Russian tale of Baba Yaga but brings the action in to what appears to be Victorian America. Scary, but absolutely wonderful story about love and family and how it can overcome evil. ( )
  MargaretPemberton | Feb 19, 2017 |
This book is an imaginative use of a classic Russian character, Baba Yaga. It is a combination of fantasy, supernatural and folklore using the theme of orphan who is unwanted, finally finds a family and earns their love. It also develops the theme of young children who are loners, finally finding a friend and being willing to do whatever they need to help them.

The book begins with Mary trying to escape the orphanage. Her mother and brother died in a fire while Mary, who had snuck out to the fire escape to read a book her brother had given he, survived. She was moved to an orphanage which she dislikes very much. The woman running it is mean, cheap and does not like Mary. When Mary finally escapes the building using the chimney, she is trapped by a whirlwind who wakes Mrs. Boots. Mary is dragged back inside, miserable. The next day, an old woman arrives at the orphanage and wants to adopt Mary. Mrs. Z, a Russian lady, promises to feed and take care of Mary. Mary happily leaves the orphanage with nothing but her book and the clothes on her back. Mary's new home is located at the edge of a town called Iris. It is a town full of charlatans who perform "magic" for tourists. Madame Z tells Mary to steer clear of them or she will be taken, but she meets and develops a friendship with a young boy named Jacob. Madame Z on the other hand, appears to have real magic. She has a house that is alive, a talking cat, a flying fire-breathing horse and a flying mortal and pestle .Mary and Madame Z have a comfortable relationship, but something seems to be wrong. With the help of her new friend Jacob, they uncover the truth and have to save not only Baba Yaga/Madame Z, but the town and woods around the town.

I had a few minor issues with this book. The first is that the book starts off strong, but then starts to drag a bit. DO NOT stop, because the ending is fantastic. I am also not sure about the title. Yes there is a door by the staircase, but it is really not the main point of the story and was rather misleading. Having said that, the way the author developed the relationships between the characters was exceptional. There was nothing force, but it was allowed to develop naturally. The villian was not unveiled until near the end and it was quite exciting. Overall a good read, but remember if it gets slow, do not give it. A great Middle Grades book that should be in all school and classroom libraries. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Oct 30, 2016 |
THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE by Katherine Marsh is a fantasy adventure based on the Russian Baba Yaga folktales.

Designed for middle grades, this dark fantasy follows the story of orphan Mary Hayes who is adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. Mary’s new home seems ideal until she begins to realize that her savior may have a dark side.

Librarians will find this fantasy to be popular with children who enjoy folk tales. Teachers wishing to explore traditional folklore at the middle grades may consider this title as part of a literature circle focusing on folklore adaptations.

To learn more about the author, go to http://katherinemarsh.com/.

Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher. ( )
  eduscapes | Feb 1, 2016 |
Perfect for middle-graders, this combination of retold fairytale with “plucky orphan finds a home” story hits all the right notes. Mary is likable for her initiative and cleverness, but her longing for a place to belong keeps her from being all sunshine and happiness. Likewise, her friend Jacob is a steadfast friend with a special desire of his own—and loyal Mary takes on the task of helping him to achieve it. Better still, with Jacob’s help, Mary is able to turn the usual ending for Baba Yaga’s adoptees to something new that benefits them both.

Full of heart and the idea that family is what we make it, this book offers some scares, some silliness, and a lot of heart.

The writing is accessible, with rich language, good description, and strong characters. Just as important for me, the editing was well done, too!

Possible Objectionable Material:
Some dangerous situations. Magic, both of the stage and real variety. Children disobey adults.

Who Would Like This Book:
Those who, like me, enjoy retold fairytales. Those who like characters with grit. Boys and girls alike. Approximate Lexile: 910.

Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC! ( )
  swingdancefan | Jan 21, 2016 |
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Happy to be adopted at last, twelve-year-old orphan Mary Hayes soon learns a terrifying secret about her new mother, the mysterious Madame Z.

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