Baker, E.D. A Question of Magic
October 1st 2013,Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Serafina is happy with her life in a small village, engaged to Alek and waiting for the arrival of a niece or nephew. When she gets a letter from an unknown aunt, telling her that she will receive an inheritance if she can be at Mala Kuputsa at a certain time, she goes. Upon her arrival, she doesn't find her aunt, but instead finds an odd hut, and after entering, finds that she has become the new Baba Yaga. This endows her to answer the first question a person asks of her with the truth, but each person may only ask her one question in his lifetime! This occasionally puts her in peril, which is why her hut can move when asked, and why it is surrounded by a fence made of talking bones! Serafina resigns herself to this life to a certain extent, and it's not a horrible one-- she keeps up the house, talks to her cat, gets gifts from people who come to call, and usually feels good about the answers she has to give. She misses Alek, however, and is alarmed that every question makes her age. Leaving notes for Alek in a tree near her old home, she hopes to be able to break the spell and return to her old life if Alek can locate the blue rose tea that will make her young again. The kingdom, however is embroiled in war, so Serfina is very busy being Baba Yaga, a job that is not always safe.
Strengths: I had a vague knowledge of Baba Yaga stories, but didn't know many details. This was fascinating! While it certainly is a great middle grade read, the whole idea of Alek still loving Serfina and being willing to help her even when she is an old lady makes this a great one for older readers as well. This had so many good moments that I gave a lot of thought, as I was drifting off to sleep, to becoming the Baba Yaga myself. Now, to travel to Russia and find a hut on chicken legs...
Weaknesses: Although I think it's a lovely cover, it may dissuade older readers from picking this up, which is a real shame.
Zahler, Diane. Sleeping Beauty's Daughters
August 27th 2013, Harpercollins
Sleeping Beauty was awoken from her sleep and has been living with her loving husband and two daughters, Aurora and Luna, but it's not all happily ever after. Manon, the same fairy that cursed Rosamund to prick her finger and die, also cursed Aurora with the same fate. For a number of years, the royal couple has managed to keep their daughter safe, but when Aurora pricks her finger on the pen a new tutor has brought, she struggles to stay awake. With the help of local fisher boy Symon, the girls set off to find the fairy godmother, Emmeline, who softened Rosamund's curse. They have a number of adventures while looking for Emmeline's island, and are chased by Manon. Once they find Emmeline, they learn a few secrets about the family, but can they find a cure in time, before Aurora succumbs to sleep?
Strengths: This had lots more adventure than other titles by this author, and that was a good addition. The cover is beautiful as always. I liked Aurora and Luna's spunk, and the touch of romance was nice as well.
Weaknesses: The adventures smacked strongly of the Odyssey, which left me confused. Also, I thought that Sleeping Beauty's name was Aurora, not Rosamund. Of course, in my family, we are all convinced that Sleeping Beauty's mother's name was Thrimbaba. In our storybook, she wasn't named, which upset my daughter. Every time I read the story, I had to refer to the mother as Thrimbaba. No idea!