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The House with Chicken Legs

My house has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning, it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we’ve been living. It might walk a hundred miles or it might walk a thousand, but where it lands is always the same. A lonely, bleak place at the edge of civilization. 

It nestles in dark forbidden woods, rattles on windswept icy tundra, and hides in crumbling ruins at the far edge of cities. At this moment it’s perched on a rocky ledge high in some barren mountains. We’ve been here two weeks and I still haven’t seen anyone living. Dead people, I’ve seen plenty of those of course. They come to visit Baba and she guides them through The Gate. But the real, live, living people, they all stay in the town and villages far below us. 

Maybe if it was summer a few of them would wander up here, to picnic and look at the view. They might smile and say hello. Someone my own age might visit – maybe a whole group of children. They might stop near the stream and splash in the water to cool off. Perhaps they would invite me to join them.

“How’s the fence coming?” Baba calls through the open window, pulling me from my daydream.

“Nearly done.” I wedge another thigh bone into the low stone wall. Usually I sink the bones straight into the earth, but up here the ground is too rocky, so I built a knee-high stone wall all the way around the house, pushed the bones into it and balanced the skulls on top. But it keeps collapsing in the night. I don’t know if it’s the wind, or wild animals, or clumsy dead people, but every day we’ve been here I’ve had to rebuild a part of the fence.

Baba says the fence is important to keep out the living and guide in the dead, but that’s not why I fix it. I like to work with the bones because my parents would have touched them once, long ago, when they built fences and guided the dead. Sometimes I think I feel the warmth of their hands lingering on the cold bones, and I imagine what it might have been like to hold my parents for real. This makes my heart lift and ache all at the same time.

The house creaks loudly and leans over until the front window is right above me. Baba pokes her head out and smiles. “Lunch is ready. I’ve made a feast of shchi and black bagels. Enough for Jack too.”

My stomach rumbles as the smell of cabbage soup and fresh baked bread hits my nose. “Just the gate hinge, then I’m done.” I pick up a foot bone, wire it back into place, and look around for Jack.

He’s picking at a weathered piece of rock underneath a dried-up heather bush, probably hoping to find a woodlouse or a beetle. “Jack!” I call and he tilts his head up. One of his silver eyes flashes as it catches the light. He bounds towards me in an ungainly cross between flying and jumping, lands on my shoulder, and tries to push something into my ear.

“Get off!” My hand darts up to cover my ear. Jack’s always stashing food to save for later. I don’t know why he thinks my ears are a good hiding place. He forces the thing into my fingers instead; something small, dry and crispy. I pull my hand down to look. It’s a crumpled, broken spider. “Thanks, Jack.” I drop the carcass into my pocket. I know he means well, sharing his food, but I’ve had enough of dead things. “Come on.” I shake my head and sigh. “Baba’s made a feast. For two people and a jackdaw.”

I turn and look at the town far below us. All those houses, snuggled close together, keeping each other company in this cold and lonely place. I wish my house was a normal house, down there, with the living. I wish my family was a normal family, too. But my house has chicken legs, and my grandmother is a Yaga and a Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next. So my wishes are as hollow as the skulls of the fence.

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Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning.

For Marinka's grandmother is Baba Yaga, who guides spirits between this world and the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and sets out to break free from her grandmother's footsteps, but her house has other ideas...

  • Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019
  • Shortlisted for Children's Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2019

  • Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019
  • Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 (Fiction category)
  • Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2019

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Book information

Key Stage
KS2/3 E
Lexile Measure
ISBN: 9781474940665
Extent: 336 pages
Dimensions: 198 x 130mm
Melissa Castrillón (cover), Elisa Paganelli

Author information

Sophie Anderson

Sophie Anderson grew up with stories in her blood, from her mother, who is a writer, to her Prussian grandmother, whose own storytelling inspired The House with Chicken Legs. Now living in the Lake District with her family, Sophie loves walking, canoeing and daydreaming. She spends every spare minute reading, and loves to talk about books online, offline and to anyone else who will listen. Sophie’s dream is to create stories that help children to explore the world and fall in love with its beautiful diversity.

Sophie Anderson on Twitter


Winner - St Helen's Schools Library Service Book Awards

Shortlisted for the Salford Children's Book Award

Winner - Bank Street College Children's Book of the Year

Shortlisted - The British Book Awards 2019

Children's Fiction Book of the Year category

Shortlisted - Essex SLS Book Awards 2019

Shortlisted - Sheffield Children's Book Award 2019

Winner - Doncaster Book Award

Secondary category

Shortlisted - Stockport Children's Book Award

Shortlisted - Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019

Shortlisted - Branford Boase Award 2019

Shortlisted - Leeds Book Awards 2019

9-11 category

Shortlisted - Northern Ireland Book Award 2019

Bronze Winner - Junior Design Awards 2018

Best Children’s Book 6+

Reader reviews

Read the following reviews or write one of your own.

“The house with chicken legs”
It is an amazing piece of work👏👌.I was intrigued by this book from the first chapter. It has a beautiful story line and is very well written✏️. It made me feel sad and joyful at the same time (I cried near the end of the book😿). The way the author has written this book helps to picture the changes and twists throughout the story. I loved this book. No wonder it got a blue peter award.🏅
“The House with Chicken Legs”
Courageous, hopeful and packed with love, The House With Chicken Legs shines like the stars on the blackest of nights. The hauntingly beautifully internal illustrations by Elisa Paganelli (@elisaupsidedown) add an extra layer of depth to this very special book that has it’s own place on the bookshelf in my heart.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
It's FABULOUS. I'm always sceptical of a book with this much pre-publication hype because I've been burned before, but in this case Sophie Anderson hits the mark with precision and flair. The world-building is spot on - it's very hard to create a world-which-is-not-quite-this-world so well; it's not jarring at all. The House could very well exist, just out of the corner of your eye. Marinka just wants to be a normal kid, not a Chosen One of any kind, and it's that desire that drives the story, but the House decides where they live, and her Baba (grandmother) decides how they spend their days. And Marinka isn't supposed to leave the house. Her journey to friendships is a bumpy one as she figures out who she is and what she needs. With adorable animal sidekicks - and the House itself (who I guarantee you will want to tickle the tummy of!), this lovely retelling has shades of Northern Lights and The Graveyard Book. It's quite simply one of my favourite books this year.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
One that needs to be in your hands as a teacher and in the hands of your class. Unmissable. I adored and devoured every single word. A purely magical debut and an absolute must-read for 2018.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
This is a wonderful story about Marinka, who longs for a normal life yet is destined to follow in her grandmothers footsteps. Her grandmother is known as a Yaga and a guardian of the gate between this world and the next. This was a lovely story which we very much enjoyed reading
“Amazing and beyond!”
Amazing and beyond! This book led me to unstoppable bittersweet tears and curiosity that can't be regained.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
Amazing, unique book which I couldn't stop reading! Very descriptive which makes it feel real.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
This book was interesting in many ways. Before you read the book, don't judge it or reject it - take a chance.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
This book is amazing! It is a book for all ages. You should write a sequel. I was hooked from the first page. It told me a lot about friendships. I kept getting mad at her when she thought she was doing the right thing. It made me cry and made me ecstatic!
“The House with Chicken Legs”
I think it is a sad, but also an amazing book. I could not stop reading it as I was so curious.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
I absolutely love this book; it has a really nice plot and it makes you have mixed feelings. I hope that Sophie Andersen makes a sequel.
“Amazing book”
The House with Chicken Legs is an amazing, interesting, but also sad story. A girl lives in a house with chicken legs, but two or three times a year, it walks away from where they've been living. So Marinka always lives at one place and just when she starts feeling at home, they move on. But one day. when they move, their next stop is near a forest. There, Marinka soon becomes friends with a boy from a nearby village. So when the house suddenly moves on, Marinka desperately wants to go back. It is an exciting story of what someone would risk for friendship.
“House with Chicken Legs”
I really like this book. Sophie Anderson did a great job to adapt a Russian fairy tale. She made sure that the suspense continued until the end. It's a book that makes you have mixed feelings; I hope Sophie makes a sequel.
“House with Chicken Legs”
A novel that you can't put down! Only thrills and lots and lots of surprises.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
I liked this book because it’s very enjoyable and you never know what’s going to happen next. A surprise is always on the next page and Marinka, the main character, is always getting into trouble. It keeps me permanently on the edge of my seat, as Marinka’s life is full of mystery. One of my favourite characters is Nina, a dead person who loves growing plants. I like her because she is kind and friendly and is gentle to plants. Baba ,who is Marinka’s grandmother, is a Yaga. this means it’s her job to guide the dead through the gate to go on their journey to the stars. I also liked Benjamin because he is caring and kind, like Nina. My least favourite characters are Salma and Lamya because they are mean and selfish. I loved Sophie Anderson’s style of writing because she wrote it from Marinka’s point of view and I like seeing things from other people's perspective. I would rate this book 4 and a 1/2 stars for its ability to keep me entranced!
“The House with Chicken Legs”
This is one of the best books I've ever read. "The House with Chicken Legs" is one of my favourite stories now and I hope Sophie Anderson writes more stories like this.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
Wow! Just wow! What an enchanting read that was! I clung onto every word that was printed before me, this book was practically made to dazzle children.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
This book was really good and I enjoyed it a lot. [...] It is about finding your own destiny and never giving up.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
It is a beautiful story full of lots of vivid language and places, with a lovely ending.
“The house with chicken legs”
A fantastic book.
“The House with Chicken Legs”
To middle grade readers who love magical stories and quirky characters, I would say - You. Must. Read. This. Book! and leave it at that. And to teachers and school librarians, I would say - This is the perfect addition to the classroom. It is a magical and special read full of vivid imagery and wonderful characters. And it also deals with real human emotions that can be talked about - loneliness especially. And there are so many extension activities - from learning about Slavic folklore to creative exercises.

Press reviews

“A magical tale… a captivating and original retelling of a traditional story straight out of folklore. Beautiful escapism.”
“There is a lot going on in Anderson's impressive novel, and it all makes for a fascinating, thought provoking, and highly recommended read.”
“The language used in this book is just beautiful and created vivid pictures in my head of a gothic (almost Tim Burton-esque) landscapes as I read it.”
“Anderson's book is rich with the tastes, smells and sensations of life”
“While it plays, elegantly and surprisingly warmly, with the idea of death, Anderson’s book is rich with the tastes, smells and sensations of life, from the flavour of borscht to the sounds of violins”
“This vividly imagined blend of fairy tale and coming-of-age novel reflects perceptively on death and loss”
“This original debut takes a poignant, philosophical look at predestination and free choice, and features delectable food descriptions, cheeky jackdaws and a frolicking lamb.”
“This magical adventure story has the feel of a modern fairytale.”
“Filled with warmth and spun from gossamer threads of magic. I loved it!”
“A spellbinding tale, beautifully told and full of heart. Pure magic.”
“[A] delicious, exquisite tale.”
“A glistening gem of a story with an air of elegance, beauty and fragility. ”
“I absolutely adored the adventure, love, friendship and stubbornness of Marinka. Such a brilliant idea and so beautifully written. ”
“A deliciously macabre world with a courageous and rebellious heroine at its centre.”
“Beautifully written, lyrical, haunting and humorous this is a novel that will move your feelings into new dimensions as you adventure with Marinka to discover the possibilities the world has to offer.”


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