Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gregory Maguire writes as a part of the universal weaving of folklore. His tales are spiritual and surreal as they spin the web of the human experience through adventures of evolution and magic. You don't just read a Gregory Maguire book, you surrender to it- literally cozying up to its warmth and mysticism. His stories are microcosms in which one willingly gets lost in order to feel something otherworldly.
Egg and Spoon is a gorgeous tale of the human condition and the power of love to motivate one's goodness. Told in Russia near the end of the Romanov Dynasty, Egg and Spoon paints a picture of the extreme socioeconomic inequities and the beautiful folklore tradition of the time. This is a child's story told with such mastery that anyone willing to apply their mind, and capitulate their imagination, will be drawn into its power.
Elena Rudina is a peasant girl from a starving village. Her father has died, her mother is deathly ill, and her brothers are taken away for servitude and soldiering. She has completely run out of food and hope when a luxurious train filled with nobility is forced to station in her village.
Ekaterina is a wealthy girl from a noble house. Her parents rarely see her. She has been pulled from her boarding school in London to make a journey to St. Petersburg with her Great Aunt to meet the eligible godson of the Tsar. She wishes she had just been left in England. She doesn't think much of anything about peasants, until the day her train breaks down in a destitute village.
Baba Yaga, The Firebird, and the Icedragon are storybook characters in the folklore of Elena and Ekaterina's world. Believing in witches, dragons and wish-granting birds means giving into fancies and acting like a child. When one is starving to death or journeying to meet the Tsar, one doesn't have time for such childish nonsense.
But sometimes, one lightning strike can change everything you thought you knew and one adventure can change everything you thought you were.
Cue trading places.
Maguire maintains the standard of his mastery in this tale of children, and magic, and what makes life worth living.
Five Stars. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
Children, keep a dictionary next to you as you read this, it is worth the journey.