Masha and the Firebird Book Review
Masha and the Firebird is an award-winning book by Margaret Bateson-Hill and illustrated by Anne Wilson. This book was originally published in 1999 (republished in 2014, Alanna Max Books) and won the English Association 4-11 Awards, 1999, Key Stage 2, Fiction. The bright, multi-media illustrations synergize beautifully with the narrative, which is based on Russian folklore and mythology.
The story follows the tale of a girl, Masha, who likes to paint the shells of the eggs her mother sells. One day when Masha is lost in the forest, she meets a magical creature, the Firebird, who guards the magical eggs of the 4 elements, earth, water, air and fire. The Firebird asks Masha for her help to keep them from the ferocious witch, Baba Yaga, by painting and hiding them. Each egg that she paints is accompanied by the Firebird’s magical poem which is written in Russian (Cyrillic).
This plan works at first, but eventually, Baba Yaga takes the last egg. Masha must then go on an adventure to rescue it. Her journey links back to the earlier part of the book when Masha decorates and hides each egg.
At the back of the book, there is a special section on egg decorating! It gives directions on how to first prepare the eggs and then many creative and inspirational ideas for decorating them. There is also information about the Russian language and script. Finally, the magical Firebird Poem is translated from Russian into English.
Why I Love Masha and the Firebird
As a mother and teacher, I would highly recommend this book to both teachers and parents. My eldest son who is almost 4, loves this story and the colourful pictures. I have used it as a stimulus for decorating eggs in the lead up to Easter. My son and I were inspired by the great egg decorating ideas at the back of the book. It is also a great prompt for children to draw, paint, and to do mixed media work.
I love the fact that this story used characters such as Baba Yaga and the Firebird from traditional stories and folklore. Our family has some Slavic heritage and the book provides a lovely way to draw links with what we do for Easter, including some of the traditions we have learned from Babcia and Dziadek.
Take this book further
To extend learning, children could use musical instruments to link with different characters or parts of the story. They could also decorate their own ‘element’ eggs or make masks to go with the characters of the story. Margaret has some other activities and ideas for children to do following reading the book which you can access here.
Other books by Margaret Bateson-Hill
Margaret has published 8 children’s books. I have two young children and they particularly enjoy This Little Piggy went to Market and Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day! These are great books for toddler and preschool children. She is also well known for her books, Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain and Leah’s Star.
About the author – Margaret Bateson-Hill
Margaret grew up in Blackpool but now lives in South East London. As a child, she read hundreds of fairy tales including Grimms’, Hans Christian Anderson and Andrew Lang’s Coloured Fairy Books. She enjoyed acting out stories and singing songs that she made up with her sister.
Margaret studied Drama and English at University and then ran a drama workshop for children. Eventually, she began writing children’s books and now also tells stories and facilitates workshops in schools, libraries and museums around London. You can find out more about Margaret on her website, Margaret Bateson-Hill.