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Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco

Babushka Baba Yaga

by Patricia Polacco

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That towering figure of Russian folklore, Baba Yaga - sometime witch, sometime forest-spirit, who goes flying through the air on her mortar, who lives in a chicken-footed house, and who, despite her reputation as a devourer of children, has been known to dispense aid upon occasion to the worthy (see the story of Vassilisa the Beautiful for one example) - is here domesticated, and transformed into a lonely old woman who longs for a grandchild to love. Stealing some human clothing, and disguising herself as one of the villagers, Baba Yaga discovers that Natasha and Victor - a young mother and child on their own - are in need of a babushka, and she immediately steps in, becoming an important part of their lives. But when story-time reveals just what the villagers think of her - of the real her - Baba Yaga flees back to the forest, before Victor can find out who she truly is. Will Babushka Baba Yaga ever be reunited with her new-found family...?

Although I have nothing to say against the moral Patricia Polacco seeks to inculcate in her young readers, with this revisionist tale - "Those who judge one another on what they hear or see, and not on what they know of them in their hearts, are fools indeed!" declares one old woman, after the happy reunion of Baba Yaga and Victor - I wish she has used some other folk-figure to illustrate it. Baba Yaga is meant to be fearsome, but also ambiguous. She's a villain - except when she isn't, and is helping (sometimes reluctantly) the hero and/or heroine. She's the figure of the old woman, both feared and respected - a figure of power: dangerous, but not always adversarial. To make her into a cozy old grandmother - a character whose sole desire is to be involved with child-rearing - is like a slap in the face, whether Polacco intended it or not, to all those readers, of whatever gender, who need to see a range of feminine characters in their stories.

I'm really quite surprised that Polacco - a prolific picture-book author and artist whose work, even when not a personal favorite, is usually of high quality - misjudged this one so badly. A real disappointment, I'm sorry to say. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 15, 2013 |
In Russia, it is believed that Baba Yaga is a witch that eats children. This Baba Yaga goes to the park and watches other grandmothers with their grandchildren. However; she is not mean nor does she wish to eat the children. She wishes for a grandchild of her own. Grades K - 3. ( )
  ydraughon | Jul 15, 2012 |
  cavlibrary | Jun 29, 2012 |
Wishing to be just like the people she watches from the woods, Baba Yaga dresses herself in human clothing and covers her elfin ears with a scarf. Looking like all the other grandmothers or babushkas, she is welcomed into the home of a young mother and quickly assumes the care of a child named Victor.
  mbayle | Jul 30, 2011 |
A fairy tale about a woman who lives in the woods, baba yaga, who longes to be a grandmother. She decides to dress like the other grandmothers and falls in love with a small boy, who she takes care of. She returns to the woods in fear that the child will discover who she really is and helps save the child. She is asked to return to the village where she continues to care for him and is respected!

Great book about not judging someone! ( )
  victoriawatson | Feb 3, 2010 |
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The villagers are afraid of her, so the legendary Baba Yaga disguises herself as an old woman in order to know the joys of being a grandmother.

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