Thursday’s Tale: The Flying Witch by Jane YolenThe Flying Witch by Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Vladimir Vagin
Published by Harper Collins on August 5, 2003
Source: Library
Genres: Childrens, Fairy tale
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
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Whirr. Whirr.

Here comes Baba Yaga!

Flying her mortar and pestle, the witch with the long iron nose scours the countryside for plump young children to eat. But will she be a match for the fiesty little girl she hopes to throw into her soup? New York Times best-selling author Jane Yolen has created a clever, original story based on hundreds of traditional Russian folktales about the famed scary old witch.

Vladimir Vagin's remarkably detailed borders and intricate scenes will give readers chills and laughs as they read this witty tale.

The Flying Witch is not a traditional Baba Yaga story, but it’s still entertaining. The witch is after a tasty, plump child to eat, but the girl she finds is brave and clever. She has “two good feet, a fine sense of direction, two strong arms, and a clever mind.” She finds a way to escape from the witch with – get this- her father’s help. Dad is pretty smart himself, puts two and two together, and finds his daughter. I love that we have a strong female lead in the little girl and a dad who is not the stereotypical disinterested/absent fairy tale father. He cares and risks his safety to go after her.

Yolen’s Baba Yaga follows tradition. She flies using a mortar and pestle, is wrinkled and ugly and has an iron nose. The book doesn’t talk down to its young audience, it explains and shows what the mortar and pestle look like instead of just letting her fly with a broom or something kids are more familiar with. I like some of the phrases like whirr, whirr, clunkety-clank and clangety clang that would make it a fun read-aloud. Oh, and making the creaky old voice for the with and the innocent soft voice of the girl.

I like the illustrations. They’re detailed and colorful and add to the story’s descriptions, like the image of the hut with chicken feet. The story takes place in fall and the “tangled forest” is full of orange and yellow leaves. Fall is also the time turnips, the crop the father takes to market, are ripe. It’s actually a particularly good read for this time of year.

The ending was a bit of a surprise. I expected the girl to get away, but it was actually a happy ending all around. It was a good reminder that sometimes being nice and helping people, even ones who seem mean, can be worth the time and energy.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

About Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.


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