ANYA AND THE DRAGON
Middle Grade, Forthcoming, Versify (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019
ANYA KOZLOVA AND THE DRAGON is a brand new Russian Folktale, riddled with magical creatures based on Russian myths and legends. It’s also the story of Jewish resistance, and a town that comes to the aid of the Jews in their midst in the face of anti-Semitism.
In ANYA KOZLOVA AND THE DRAGON, debut author Sofiya Pasternack tells the story of A 12-year-old Jewish girl who must go up against a bloodthirsty Viking and a vengeful Tsar to protect the lonely dragon who saved her life and to save her own family’s home from confiscation by the Tsar. Set in the 9th Century, the story touches on the history of the Jews from the Caucasus Mountains who spoke the Juhuri language – a mixture of Hebrew and Persian (some Jews still do!) and made their way to Russia from Iran to seek a better life for their families.
A dragon has been spotted in Russia for the first time since the Tsar ordered their extermination over a decade ago. The dragon’s appearance has prompted the Tsar to issue a bounty: one thousand rubles to whoever brings him the beast alive. Bounty hunters have descended on the small village of Zmeyreka in Kievan Rus and Anya thinks that the red fish she saw in the river might not be a fish, but a river dragon – perhaps the one that everyone is looking for.
Twelve-year-old Anya Kozlova needs that bounty. The corrupt village magistrate has delivered an ultimatum to her family: pay an enormous sum of back taxes within 30 days or be evicted from their home. With her father conscripted and fighting in Tartary, Anya and her mother are left alone to care for Anya’s disabled grandparents and manage their goat farm. Anya is offered money from one of the men who comes to her town to seek the dragon – Ivan Durachov, the Fool. If she helps him, she’ll be able to pay off the magistrate, bring her father back from war, and maybe see her mother smile again.
Anya doesn’t know anything about dragons, and unlike her mother and grandmother, she doesn’t have any magic yet, but Ivan Durachov’s son, Ivan (the Eighth), does – he can do water magic, and he offers to help Anya in her quest. As they draw closer to the dragon, a Varangian warrior gets in their way. He’s been pursuing the dragon all the way from Norway, and his message is clear: interfere and die.
But Anya and Ivan have already interfered too much, and the Viking takes deadly action against them. They’re pulled from a watery death by an unexpected hero: the dragon. With the magistrate’s tax deadline looming, the treat of a pogrom, and no other source of money in sight, Anya must make a choice: save the dragon or save her family’s farm.