Title: Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll
Author: Hiawyn Oram
Artist: Ruth Brown
Genre: Russia / Toys / Animals / Magic / Suspense / Folktale
Year Published: 1997
Year Read: 2016
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Content Rating: Ages 5+ (Child Mistreatment and Some Scary Scenes)
I have read many Russian folktales during my time, but I rarely read Russian folktales that involved the legendary fictional figure, Baba Yaga. So, when found a children’s book that starred Baba Yaga called “Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll” by Hiawyn Oram along with illustrations by Ruth Brown, while I was impressed that the illustrations were well done and the characters Baba Yaga and the wise doll were interesting, the story kind of felt a bit flat for me.
The book starts off with Baba Yaga looking into her many ways mirror to take a look at three girls who are named Horrid, Very Horrid and Too Nice. Horrid and Very Horrid always made fun of Too Nice and one day, they would not let Too Nice play with them and threw her out of the house. The only way that Too Nice can come back inside the house is if she goes to Baba Yaga’s house and gets one of her toads that wear a jeweled jacket and a diamond collar. Luckily, Too Nice has a wise doll that was a gift from her mother and the wise doll would give Too Nice some good advice to survive in the world. When Too Nice finally comes to Baba Yaga’s house, Baba Yaga makes Too Nice do various tasks and if Too Nice passes her tasks, then Baba Yaga will give Too Nice anything she wants. But if Too Nice fails the tasks, then Baba Yaga will feed Too Nice to her toads and her black cauldron!
Can Too Nice pass Baba Yaga’s tests?
Read this book to find out!
Hiawyn Oram has done a good job at portraying Baba Yaga as this frightening yet reasonable character who does some horrifying stuff such as feeding people to her toads and black cauldron, but is willing to give Too Nice a chance to obtain her toads as long as Too Nice performs her tasks well. I also loved the way that Hiawyn Oram portrayed the wise doll as the wise doll was the most interesting part of the story, next to Baba Yaga herself and I loved the way that the wise doll helped Too Nice by making its shadow do most of the tasks set out by Baba Yaga which gives the story a mysterious and creative edge.
Ruth Brown’s artwork is truly gorgeous, especially of the images of Baba Yaga, her toads and her black cauldron. I loved the way that Baba Yaga was drawn as having greenish skin and wild black hair that makes her look so frightening. I also loved the fact that her toads were drawn with jeweled jackets and diamond necklaces as it makes them look regal and yet since they belong to Baba Yaga, we know that they are truly revolting.
The reason why I gave this book a three and a half star rating was because even though the illustrations were gorgeous, the story felt a bit flat because the characters were not develop enough where I was interested in them and there were many plot holes in this story that made me scratch my head a bit about how one situation transitioned to another situation. For example, I was puzzled about why Baba Yaga wanted to mess with Too Nice and her sisters rather than some other random person and why the sisters wanted Too Nice to get a toad from Baba Yaga in the first place.
Overall, while “Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll” had interesting characters in both Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll and the illustrations were gorgeous to look at, the story felt a little flat due to the lack of characterization of Too Nice and her sisters and the many plot holes in the story. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since smaller children might be frightened of Baba Yaga and her toads.