The Door by the Staircase

6 CDs. 7:15 hrs. Dreamscape. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781682628034. 1 MP3-CD.
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes is orphaned when her mother and brother perish in a tragic fire, one that she escaped because she was outside reading her book of fairy tales. Life in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies is so grim that she risks escape by chimney, only to be thwarted by an extraordinary whirlwind. The very next day eccentric Madame Zolotaya appears, adopts Mary, and takes her to a remote house near the strange town of Iris, which is populated by practitioners of the occult. Madame Z is kind to Mary, feeds her well, and gets her new clothes, yet she protests that she is "no one's mother." When it is revealed that her guardian is none other than Baby Yaga, the fearsome witch who eats children, Mary and her friend Jacob, a magician's assistant, work together to protect themselves from the witch's power. Laural Merlington brings much expression and varied voices to this exciting, magical tale, and only Madame Z's "Russian" accent seems a bit forced. Mary is a strong, kind, and clever character, and the common wish for a home, friends, and family unite the diverse and amazing characters.
VERDICT Although there is some foreshadowing, the suspense stays strong throughout and draws to a satisfying conclusion; boys and girls, lovers of Harry Potter, and fans of dark fairy tales will appreciate this adventure. ["For those willing to tackle a rich and layered text, there's much here to enjoy": SLJ 12/15 starred review of the Hyperion book.]

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