Rating: Cannot Recommend
Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: Candlewick Press
As life becomes increasingly desperate for Elena and her struggling community, an opulent train pulls into her disregarded Russian village. The train holds Ekaterina—or Cat—a young aristocratic girl who is heading to the Tsar’s palace. By accidental means the two girls switch places with Elena heading to St. Petersburg and Ekaterina unexpectedly meeting the witch, Baba Yaga. On their different journeys, the two girls finally confront each other at the Tsar’s palace. Elena is imprisoned for impersonating royalty, but Cat and Baba Yaga free Elena to help them find a resolution to a magical imbalance in their world. With the help of Baba Yaga’s magic, her chicken-legged cottage, and Elena’s intuition, they search the land for aids to bring balance back to Russia.
Told from the narration of an imprisoned monk, Egg & Spoon is a plethora of Russian folktales mashed together on a shallow “prince and pauper” foundation. Even though Elena and Cat are at an intermediate age, the book is not a tween read. With the monk’s excessive but vague narration and Baba Yaga’s random popular culture references, young readers could have a hard time comprehending Maguire’s story. Even with this issue, Maguire’s book itself is not written in a clear, concise, or consistent manner. The book starts off as darkly realistic but drastically changes to an excessively mystical world. This major plot jump leaves little room for readers to catch up with Maguire’s sporadic and agonizingly episodic pace.