A Wolf for a Spell – written by Karah Sutton


  A Wolf for a Spell – written by Karah Sutton, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593121658, 2020

Format: eBook (ARC)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book? Sutton combines Russian folklore with curious characters and descriptive writing to build an enticing fantasy world for young readers as multiple stories converge into a whirlwind of adventures.

Zima, a wolf, and Nadya, a young girl, both seek the help of Baba Yaga but neither of them get what they expect. Zima is tricked into trading bodies with Baba Yaga so the witch can carry out a secretive quest. Nadya then arrives, believing Zima to be the true Baba Yaga and makes her heartfelt request. The two are thrown into a perilous predicament and they’ll need to use everything they have – courage, love, and magic – to save those they care for.

Sutton’s writing is so full of descriptive details that readers can nearly feel the ice form around them as the cold winter wind blows through the enchanted forest. This narrative style fits perfectly with the story as the setting, characters, and plot are peppered with unique elements to make readers eager to learn more. Even characters that lack a large amount of “page time” are granted full personalities and motivations to make the story seem even more tangible.

Overall, this is a charming title with an all-too-rarely featured folklore character and a fantastic message of love, family, and friendship.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  The only downfall of the book is pacing. The chapters switch between the perspectives of Nadya, Zima, and Baba Yaga, offering pieces of the puzzling plot as they go, but the switch is often quick, giving readers only a few pages to acclimate to the new information.

To whom would you recommend this book? This will be a great fit for readers in grades 3 to 6.  Kids who have enjoyed other adventure fantasy books such as Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon or White’s Nightbooks. Any readers who enjoy fairy tale retelling will also gravitate towards this (just be sure to have some info about Baba Yaga around, too!).

Who should buy this book? Highly recommended for collections where fairy tales and their retellings are popular!

Where would you shelve it ? J fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Not necessarily. You can easily book talk this one without reading it and it will still get into the hands of plenty of eager readers.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA

Date of review: January 25, 2021    

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