Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

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Candlewick Press, 2014. ISBN 9780763672201
(Age: 12+) The author is best known for his story Wicked, which inspired the musical of the same name. Along with a special interest in the Brothers Grimm and Maurice Sendak, Maguire harbours a fascination for Russian folklore, reimagining and retelling stories which are familiar to many of us. Egg and Spoon brings a vast cast of characters and stories together on a sprawling Russian canvas. To begin, the reader is introduced to the storyteller who is locked in a tower on the outskirts of the Tsarist Russian empire. He has an amazing tale to tell, beginning with the chance meeting of two girls in their early teens. Elena is from a poverty-stricken family in a rural area ravaged by bad harvests, cold and tragedy. Ekaterina is wealthy and noble of birth, destined for betrothal within the Tsar's family. Entirely by accident the two girls end up swapping places and the adventure begins. How reminiscent is this of numerous folktales we know! Even though the setting is Russia around 1900, Maguire combines the historical with the fantastical. We meet the Firebird, Baba Yaga and the Ice Dragon. We meet a prince travelling incognito and we share in the beauty of the Faberge egg. He invites us to follow him on this magical journey, holding our attention with wonderful asides and an overlying sense of humour. There are important lessons to be learned along the way about wealth and inequality, the fragile nature of the environment and the importance of individuals seeing beyond themselves.
Overall the book is too long and often quite complex, but the story is engrossing and beautifully and cleverly told. There is something for everyone in this book, strange and fanciful as it is, and it would work well as a book to share and read aloud.
Julie Wells
Editor's note: It was on ALA best fiction for young adults 2015 and on Kirkus best books 2014 list.