Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Q & A

Q&A: Sophie Anderson, author of The House With Chicken Legs.

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About The House With Chicken Legs: 

Marinka dreams of a normal life, where she stays in one place long enough to make friends, but that isn’t possible. Her house has chicken legs and her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides spirits between one world and the next. 

Marinka is destined to become the next Yaga, but she rebels against this and sets out to change her destiny. 

The House With Chicken Legs was one of my favourite titles this year. I loved the interpretation of Yaga (a character from Russian folklore) and the unflinching narrative about mortality. The characters are the sort that stick in your head, and I will return to their story over and over just to spend time in their company.

I am delighted to have Sophie Anderson here on my blog to talk about fairy tales, stars and Christmas traditions. 

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Do you have any favourite fairytales set in winter/snowy landscapes? What draws you to these stories?

Wintry landscapes glitter with magic and invoke a chilling feeling perfect for dark fairy tales. My favourite is the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden. There are different versions, but most begin with a childless couple building a little girl out of snow. She comes to life and seeks out happiness at every opportunity, but sadly in most versions she melts at the end of the tale. As a child I used to find this heart-breaking, but over the years I have come to accept it as a message to live fully, as a short, full life is preferable to a long, empty one. One of my favourite books is an adult reimagining of this tale: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

 

Winter is a time when stories were traditionally told around the fire. What are your favourite storytelling traditions?

I love bedtime stories with my children. However busy our lives get, we always make time for stories at the end of the day. We each take turns reading a chapter of a book we like and because my children all have different tastes we usually have three or four quite different books on the go!

 

Both the Nativity Story and your story feature stars. What inspired you to write about stars?

Carl Sagan! I love his work. The idea of our souls returning to the stars after death came directly from one of his quotes: “We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

 

How might Marinka’s house be decorated if she was celebrating Christmas?

Holly and mistletoe would grow in great curls from the House’s roof and oranges studded with cloves would blossom from the beams. The scents of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and rum soaked fruit cake would plume into the air as Baba cooked up a sweet spiced feast. And skulls lit with candles would adorn every surface, throwing a warm light into all the dancing shadows.

 

Marinka learns and inherits lots of traditions from her Grandmother. Do you have any special Christmas traditions, or any you would love to try?

My grandmother served Rumtopf with ice cream every Christmas. Rumtopf is made by soaking seasonal fruits in a stoneware pot filled with rum, and because it takes months to make I’ve never got round to doing it. Perhaps 2019 will be the year I finally start filling my Rumtopf pot!

 

If you could receive one gift from a story, what would it be and why?

The wardrobe that leads to Narnia. I’d love to see if I’m brave enough to go through it!

 

A huge thanks to Sophie Anderson for your time.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments below.

Middle Grade Reviews

The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

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Extract:

My House has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning, it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we have been living. It might walk a hundred miles, or it might walk a thousand, but where it lands is always the same. A lonely, bleak place at the edge of civilization. 

(The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Andersen. P7.) 

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Synopsis:

Marinka’s house has chicken legs. Marinka dreams of a normal life, where she stays in one place long enough to make friends, but that is impossible. Her grandmother is Baba Yaga. It is her job to guide spirits from the world of the living to the next work. Marinka is destined to become the next Yaga, and follow in her grandmother’s footsteps.

Marinka sets out to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas.

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Review:

This book appeared on my Twittersphere sometime last year. It sounded intriguing. How can you not be intrigued by a house with chicken legs?  Now I have read the story, I can confirm it is more than cute or intriguing. It is one of the best fairytales I have ever read and is going on my list of ultimate middle-grade novels.

I fell in love with the world straight away – a world where the newly dead are comforted by a spirit guide who listens to their stories and feeds them up for the journey ahead. I loved the idea of a child caught between respect for these traditions, and tedium at the lack of living companions. I loved the jackdaw and the fence of bones and the traditional dinner. It was a world I could imagine with all my senses.

We know straight out what Marinka wants. She wants friendship, and routine, and all those other things people who live in normal buildings have. She ventures into the world of the living in a bid to change her destiny. Her story will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered whether their future is set in stone.

The other big theme is mortality. It is lovely to see a children’s book about death which is not centered around the death of one person. Death is the one inevitability, and yet it is something we are uncomfortable talking about. This book will open up conversation about appreciating the people around us, and living our lives in the moment.  

 Sophie Anderson’s writing is beautiful. From the opening words, My House Has Chicken Legs, you will be drawn into the story’s spell. A masterful debut, and a wonderful piece of work.  

 

Louise Nettleton

Chat · Q & A

2018 Deubt Author Sophie Anderson – Christmas Cracker Q&A

The House With Chicken Legs is a 2018 debut I am particularly excited about. Inspired by the myth of Baba Yaga, it is set in a house with chicken legs and a mind of it’s own. Everything about it sounds magical. You can read more about why I’m so excited in my Waiting On Wednesday post, where I flagged the book up as one to watch out for. Author Sophie Anderson kindly agreed to tell me about her dream Christmas cracker. Read about the book, then check out her answers!

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About the Book: 

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. The only people Marinka meets are dead, and they disappear when her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides them through The Gate. Marinka wants to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas…

Available from Usborne Publishing

April 2018bird

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Christmas Cracker Q&A:

If you could create a cracker… Would there be a joke inside? What would it be, or what would you have in place?  Miniature books! ‘My Miniature Library’ by Daniela Terrazzini contains thirty tiny books to create; including fairy tales, nonsense rhymes, and nature guides. It looks delightful! (and perfect for anyone making home-made crackers)

 

What sort of hat would you wear? Something sparkly, made of moonbeams and magic.

 

What would you hope to see inside? Even the tiniest book contains infinite magic – so a miniature book would be enough for me!

 

Which fictional character would you pull it with? A House with Chicken Legs of course! Then I would sit on its roof and read us the story, as it danced beneath a star filled sky.

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Waiting On Wednesday: The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Twelve-year-old Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. The only people Marinka meets are dead, and they disappear when her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides them through The Gate. Marinka wants to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas…

 

Why I can’t wait to read The House With Chicken Legs:

 

  • I love fairy tales and folk lore. Russian fairytales aren’t one of the areas I am better aquainted with, and it will be lovely to expand my knowledge alongside reading the novel.

 

  • ‘The only people Marinka meets are dead.’ The Gate and the dead remind me of Sabriel, a series I loved as a teenager and must finish. The most intriguing thing about Sabriel was her ability to bring people back from the gates of death.

 

  • Is there one place the house wants to go? A fate it has in mind, or something it wants to fix? I’m intrigued about the motives of this house.

 

  • Marinka has met few people, and lived closely with her Grandmother. I wonder whether an adventure will be a challenge for someone who has lead a relatively isolated life, and how she will change as a character.

 

  • Sophie Anderson is a fell dweller. I want to see whether the Cumbrian landscape has influenced her writing.

 

The House With Chicken Legs

Usbourne Publishing Ltd

April 2018