Cover of Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen

Finding Baba Yaga

This verse novel began as a bunch of different poems about Baba Yaga,my culture hero. I’d read a bit of a blog in which the author purports to be Baba Yaga as a love columnist. The columns were particularly snarky and strong. So I wrote a poem about Baba Yaga as a love columnist and then branched out into writing poems about her in general: having tea with Kostchai the Deathless, (When he kisses the Baba on the cheek, “it leaves a scar.”) or how she feels about her cousin the witch from Hansel in Gretel. (“She always eats the help”) But somewhere along the way I realized there was some kind of a verse novel in the making.

Now, I had avoided verse novels like the plague because the few I’d read had been simply prose pieces broken into short lines, but little to do with real poetry. However, once some of the real children’s poets joined in—-Nikki Grimes and Jacqueline Woodson for example—-I began to think seriously about doing such a thing. Even started one called The Poacher’s Girl, a spin-off of Sleeping Beauty. But never got very far with it. Yet.

I needed a main character for the Baba Yaga verse novel, but not the witch herself, and decided she had to be a modern era runaway. And that’s how FINDING BABA YAGA began. It had several interesting rejections, and then was taken with great alacrity (and several revisions) by Andrew Karre at Lerner. You will note the publisher is not Lerner but Tor. That’s because just before the contract was drawn up, Andrew took another job–at Dutton Books. And no one at Dutton wanted to support Baba Yaga. So after a year of languishing there, it was sent back to me. And when my agent and I approached Susan Chang at Tor, she loved the book as much as Andrew had. So this is a twice-sold verse novel.

(P.S: Several of the poems were published first in magazines, always a plus!)


  • Amazon list of Best SF/Fantasy Books November 2018

What reviewers have said:

  • “Jane Yolen is a phenomenon: a poet and a mythmaker, who understands how old stories can tell us new things.” — Neil Gaiman
  • “This novel-in-verse is a journey, an escape, and an encounter with an ambiguous evil. Tart and touching and sometimes deeply sad, with surprising stings of wit.” — John Crowley
  • “This is a Worm Ouroboros of a story, the old made new, the new made old, metaphors rubbing shoulders with painful truths. A book-length poem, Finding Baba Yaga is no gimmick but rather the only way the story could be told to deliver the impact that it does.” — Charles de Lint
  • “Seductive in the best way possible, Finding Baba Yaga draws you in from first word to last, its secrets doled out like sweet treats…If you’ve never met Baba Yaga before, it’s time. If you think you have, be assured: not like this.” — Nikki Grimes
  • “Yolen’s version paints a picture of the importance of a female space, with redemptive and empowering themes, all surrounded by pops of wordplay and wit.” — Booklist
  • “It was a beautiful story, laced with modernized Russian mythology that was really a delight to read about. Very recommended!” — Avalinah’s Books
  • “This novella is punchy and incredibly deep cutting from the first page. There’s wisdom, beauty, and a magical mist from the very beginning. Finding Baba Yaga is such clever writing. Each poem is one to be savored and framed as they piece together a story. I’d love to hear this aloud because I think it would sound exquisite. Yolen mixes new terms with the older stories, framing it in a new light. Yolen is an expert weaver – constantly weaving stories together and defying our expectations. Finding Baba Yaga gives us lyrical poems that can stand on their own chicken feet.” — Utopia State of Mind
  • “Yolen’s entry into the Baba Yaga canon packs an emotional punch…Yolen’s wordplay is sharp, engaging, and evocative; even folklore-illiterate readers will be enchanted by this slim volume.” — Kirkus
  • “Yolen has created another magical tale from pieces of this and that, pieces that are put together with her exquisite free verse. Her tale of a young girls’ journey is fantasy, allegorical and real. It is a heart-breaking story with little slips of humor. It is a terrifying story of abuse and an inspiring telling of becoming one’s own heroine. Here is yet another amazing book to be added to the over 300 this wonderful author has all ready brought to us.” — Teen Reads