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Grandma Chickenlegs

Last updated Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Author: Geraldine McCaughreen
Date of Publication: 1999
ISBN: 1575054159
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2009

Synopsis: This spirited retelling of a classic Russian folktale about the witch Baba Yaga fairly vibrates with vigorous images. A heartless stepmother who has "eyes as sharp as needles and a soul as thin as a thread" orders sweet Tatia to borrow a needle from Grandma Chickenlegs, certain she is sending Tatia to her death. But through kindness and a little magic, Tatia escapes Grandma Chickenlegs's fearsome clutches. McCaughrean's (The Golden Hoard) language is refreshingly original. The witch's front door, for example, "swung on its hinges, squealing like a thing in pain"; the house itself is a "rickety-rackety shack" that runs around the garden atop "four scratching, paltry poultry legs." Kemp's (the Helpful Betty books) colored pencil illustrations skate perilously close to garish in places and don't live up to the promise of the cover artAa wonderfully outrageous image in shades of orange and chartreuse of two scrawny legs encased in striped stockings and a pair of flagrantly ugly lace-up shoes. But the interior art, too, is larded with witty touches: Grandma's iron-fanged dentures sit in a cup on the nightstand, fabric on her loom bears a broom motif, a chimney cap takes the shape of a witch's hat. Rollicking fun from start to finish. From Amazon.com

Note to readers:
•  Vocabulary: pestle, sieves, talons, propel, vessel, petticoat

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What’s on the cover?
•  What do the pets and the girl think of the chickenlegs?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Look for the pestle in the picture.
•  Is Grandma Chickenlegs Tatia’s real grandma?
•  What is Grandma Chickenlegs planning to do with Tatia?
•  Do your dogs and catch carry water?
•  How did the butter help the door?
•  When she’s outside tying a ribbon on the tree, what is below the house? (bones)
•  Why did the cat, dog, door, and tree help Tatia instead of Grandma Chickenlegs?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a house and tape pipe cleaners or cut-out legs below it.
•  Draw a house with a door and windows that open. Mount on another piece of construction paper and color in the cat, dog, and Tatia inside.
•  Make your own Drooga.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!