The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

Back in March Sophie Anderson asked over twitter how did her book The House With Chicken Legs manage to ‘sneak in’ with the pile of giants shortlisted for the Children’s Fiction Book of the Year including Jacqueline Wilson, Hilary McKay and Toni Adeyemi among with the celebrity juggernaut of Davids.

I will repeat here what I said then, Because it is sublime Sophie.

It is moving, thought-provoking, world shaking and comes from a primal place of experience, folk identity and mythology that lives within us all bound and entwined within our very DNA; the stories older than time that spun us into being.

It’s taken me 8 months and the imminent publication of her new book The Girl who speaks Bear but I’m beginning to grasp the words to honour how precious this book is.

Book Cover for The House with Chicken Legs
UK Cover illustration by Melissa Castrillon. Designed by Katherine Millichope Internal illustrations by Elisa Paganelli

Marinka lives a life seemingly trapped in her grandmother’s house, but her grandmother’s house is no ordinary house and her grandmother is no ordinary grandmother, she is a Baba Yaga.

Called Witch by some and demonised by others what she really is a warden of gateways between the living and the dead and her task is to give the souls of the dead a good send off so they return to the stars in a peaceful or at least more accepting state of mind… and Marinka is expected to become one herself.

Of course she doesn’t want to, and when she makes a Dreadful error that means her grandmother can’t simply open the doorway she must assist a soul to cross over herself. Marinka begins to learn about herself, her past and the truth of herself in her grandmother’s absence, the good, the painful and must decide what and who she will be in the future.

All my daydreams of friends and futures unknown crumble away as I imagine life as a Guardian stretching ahead of me once more, long and straight. Always stuck in this house. Every night being weighed down by the memories of the dead before I lead them away . A life of goodbyes. And when Baba moves in, being alone as a Guardian. The thought makes me feel as cold and desolate as the desert at night.

For a long time I didn’t have the ability to put into words how special this book is, how profoundly this book touched my soul and began to lift me out of the dark of grief that has tinted my edges since I was the same age as her protagonist.

Her book told me I don’t need to feel guilty anymore about having been selfish and grumpy at the changes that had been going on before my grandfather died, I was doing my ‘job’ of growing up.

Her book told me that I was entitled to grieve, and grieve as hard as I needed until it was manageable. Something nobody encouraged me to do at the time, I was even told by my other nan that I must control myself because I mustn’t upset my mother anymore and that has coloured my approach to grief ever since- putting it in a box so as not to upset others. Of course then my seeming lack of feeling then upset others.

I hope this book gets into the hands of every child that needs it, every child that loses someone important, every child who loses someone suddenly, every child who loses someone when they are vulnerable and finding themselves.

This book is so powerful and so beautiful, I hope it tells them they are allowed and entitled to rage and grieve and acknowledge that pain as much as they need and it’s ok to need to find yourself. Because it is only by addressing and confronting that pain that we begin to find the ways to live more fully, a life lived in fear of facing the pain is half lived and we want our children to soar.

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson is published in the UK by Usborne and the US by Scholastic


9 thoughts on “The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson

  1. What a lovely review, I’m so glad you did this one. I read this awhile back and just fell in love with it. THe UK cover is a MUST on this one. I didn’t review it because I was crazy behind in everything and I totally regret it. This is just a perfect review of everything that this book is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, this book is incredibly special. And yes I might be biased but the UK cover really grasps the feeling of the book in my opinion!!!


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