The Door by the Staircase
by Katherine Marsh
Another juvenile fiction for you today (I unashamedly love juvenile fiction). This one was a little slow getting into, but was very good . . .sweet and endearing. I really liked it. Marsh was so creative blending Russian fairy tales with an updated story. I’ve always loved fairy tales, so that was one reason I was drawn to this particular book. Overall, it was clever, heartwarming, and definitely a good read.
Twelve year old Mary lives at an awful orphanage after her mother and brother die in a house fire. She is sad and alone until one day she has the good fortune to be adopted by a kindhearted old lady. She is given fresh clothes and scrumptious food and allowed to explore their town where she meets Jacob, who becomes a good friend. All is not what it seems in the sleepy town of Iris . . .it is filled with magicians and mystics. Jacob knows them all and is one himself. He points out how they all do their tricks, though some he can’t figure out. It soon becomes clear that something is amiss at Mary’s new home, and she learns from the servant and talking cat that Madame Z is none other than Baba Yaga, a horrible witch who eats children! Mary must keep her wits about her and out think the witch before she becomes her next meal. Spoilers: Mary convinces Madame Z to teach her magic and not eat her. Madame Z agrees and teaches Mary how to copy down recipes, weave, and care for her fire breathing horse. Mary still doesn’t trust Madame Z, so she breaks a promise and joins with Jacob to chase after the firebird who will give her one wish (a wish of safety). However, Mary gets tricked by the evil servant, who uses Madame Z’s love for Mary (turns out she could be trusted), to kill Madame Z and take over her world. Mary has to use the magic Madame Z taught her to bring her back. She calms herself by weaving, writes down the recipe to bring the witch back to life, and rides the horse to collect the ingredients. She kills the evil servant and brings her mother back to life and they live happily ever after!
Summing it up: this one was sweet, heartwarming, and very clever. I definitely recommend it!
All the best, Abbey