Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire: Consummate Storytelling Makes This Big Book Well Worth Cracking

BookendsLynn: I’ve struggled a bit with reviewer block this fall, a result of looming deadlines, towering to-read stacks, and just too many books I HAVE to read. I’ll be honest and say that sometimes I let the number of pages affect my decisions about what to tackle next. I’ll be even more honest and say that, despite my love of Gregory Maguire’s writing, I was feeling a bit gloomy about taking on the hefty Egg and Spoon (2014). Fortunately, that feeling disappeared almost immediately as Maguire’s consummate storytelling wrapped me up and pulled me in. Hooked, lassoed, captured, wrapped, and delivered—he got me and he kept me and those pages flew by.

This is a book to read aloud, to
re-read, to share, and to savor.

Egg and SpoonWhat a book! Big and wandering, ambitious and messy, richly complex, observant, sarcastic, endearing. This book is all of these things and it is an absorbing delight to read. In a nineteenth-century Russia, the Tsar is holding a party at which his godson will choose a future wife. Ekaterina is being taken to the party by her great aunt, carrying a Fabregé egg as a gift. Their train stops at a tiny impoverished village where, by chance, “Cat” inadvertently switches places with a peasant girl Elena. The story follows the paths of the two girls as they separate, twist, turn, eventually collide again. I loved following their trails and watching how each girl is changed by her journey.

Most of all, I loved the characters who are all refreshingly flawed, although it is Baba Yaga and her enchanted house that nearly steal the show.  Operating on a different time continuum then the rest of us, Baba Yaga is never quite sure what has happened or been invented.  And yet, like all classic fairy tales, Baba Yaga is a combination of darkness and terror, enchantment and nobility.  She is Mother Russia and the future of the country hinges on the success of their expedition.

This is a book to read aloud, to re-read, to share, and to savor. Set aside some time, settle back and let this wonderful story flow into your heart and your mind. I guarantee it will stay.

Cindy: My 2014 reading schedule hasn’t allowed me to get to this novel yet, but it’s on my list to read. In the meantime, I think I will show my middle schoolers this slide show of the Imperial Eggs by Fabregé so they can see what these amazing works of art look like. That, and stealing Lynn’s description of the book will pass for my booktalk until I get to read the book myself. (Full disclosure: I am always honest with my students and tell them when I am booktalking something that I haven’t read yet but am letting them have first!)

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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