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The Door by the Staircase

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,265 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can't stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn't go quite as well as she'd hoped, Mary fears she'll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever.

The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron's all too happy
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
When a strange woman adopts Mary Hayes from the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies, Mary can hardly believe her luck. Finally she has a warm, cozy bed, and a full belly. And, she quickly finds a friend in the nearby village of Iris, a tourist trap of a place filled with "con artists, fakes, and charlatans." But before long, Mary discovers that she's not the first girl to be adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. What happened to all the others? And, why is the door by the staircase kept locked? And, i ...more
Fafa's Book Corner
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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Beware spoilers ahead!

I received this E-ARC via Netgalley and Disney Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.

When I first heard about this it sounded right up my alley. I did not hesitate to select 'Wish it' on Netgalley. Needless to say I was very happy when it was available for request. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this!

The book begins with Mary trying to escape the orphanage. Her mother and brother died in a fire. The only r
The Library Lady
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I grew up reading Russian fairy tales, so it didn't take me long to figure out who "Madame Z" is. That said, this is an imaginative use of a classic Russian character, and a nice brew of folklore, fantasy, and the classic theme of an orphan finding a home, and an adult who doesn't think they can love, learning that they can. Highly enjoyable. ...more


This was featured in my Books I Want To Read in 2016 video, so you could say I was pretty damn excited about this one. I purchased a copy last month and decided to pick it up this month because I felt like it was calling to me from my shelves. Well that must’ve been another book calling to me and The Door by the Staircase interfered with its reception because I was kinda disappointed with this one.

This book is about a young girl named Mary who’s living in an orphanage after her mother
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Amy Plum
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An enchanting retelling of the Baba Yaga tale, with a feisty main character, Mary Hayes, who will stay with you long after you've closed the book. ...more
Keisha | A Book Like You
*3.5 stars - I picked this book up because the cover reminded me of Coraline, but this book was definitely not what I expected. Full of Russian folklore and mythical creatures, this is a story about an orphan girl trying to find a home. The title of the book is misleading to me as far as what the book is about. But I still enjoyed the story. The beginning felt a little slow, but by the end I felt like this was a solid story about bravery, friendship, and family.
Aw I loved this book !!
This book is adorable and it makes me happy !
You know how sometimes ….maybe once in a blue moon kind of thing that you sometimes wish you had a real life fairy tale come to life, just so you can play with magic and meet all the magical creature !!! Well this book gives you just that.

Not to mention all the Russian words and food, it only added to the essence of a good story. It got me thinking ….maybe I should start cooking some Russian food (vareniki, jellied meat, buckwh
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
The Door by the Staircase is Katherine Marsh’s riff on the Russian tale of the witch Baba Yaga. The book has all the creepiness and unworldliness of the folk tale, but Marsh expands on it, giving us a cluster of engaging characters who all draw our sympathy—including the witch herself.

Young Mary Hayes is happy to be adopted by the mysterious Madame Z, a woman who appears “hunched, with a long nose and big ears that had clearly continued to grow while the rest of her shriveled.” Anything’s better
Jayce Senter
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Originally posted here at In the Senter of it All

Very scary at times. Madame Z is so kind at first but turns out to be a witch who eats children.

Genre: Scary
AR level: none yet
Grade appropriate:4th and up

Overall: 4/5-- Very scary. If you go into it expecting that it might not be quite the shock. It catches you completely off guard.

Creativity: 4/5-- a retelling of the Baba Yaga tale.

Characters: 5/5-- I loved Mary from the beginning. She’s a survivor. When she decides she’d rather
Munro's Kids
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A really strong intermediate fantasy! When Mary tries to escape her orphanage she instead gets adopted by a mysterious old woman from eastern Europe named "Madame Z". Mary's new home is located at the edge of an occult town full of charlatans who perform "magic" for tourists, and while Mary's new guardian claims not to have anything to do with magic, the food seems to be prepared with no effort, the cat seems to respond to human speech and there is a strange biting door under the stairs... somet ...more
THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE by Katherine Marsh is a fantasy adventure based on the Russian Baba Yaga folktales.

Designed for middle grades, this dark fantasy follows the story of orphan Mary Hayes who is adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. Mary’s new home seems ideal until she begins to realize that her savior may have a dark side.

Librarians will find this fantasy to be popular with children who enjoy folk tales. Teachers wishing to explore traditional folklore at the middle grades may consider thi
While this is certainly a retelling of the Baba Yaga story, it also has a heavy Studio Ghibli vibe - like a combo of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.
If that gets you going, then you'll definitely want to read this story of tween orphan Mary Hayes, a fearless girl who we meet while she's trying to escape the dreadful orphanage where she lives in Buffalo. Unfortunately, she's caught in the act. Fortunately, she is adopted the next day by Madame Z, and things are looking fantastic until Mary
Aug 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
I must admit that at first I was a bit annoyed with all the freely taken elements from various Russian fairy tales, seeing as this can't really be classified as a retelling. I always wonder if there's a point when something stops being an original work of art and becomes a mere copy. This book is a proper medley of various familiar characters in a new setting, with an American orphan girl as the main character. The fact that it started off kind of slow didn't help either.

However. The further I r
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I wasn't totally in love with this book, but I don't agree with prior reviews that call it "too scary" for children. While there are certainly aspects of classic fairy tale scariness, I felt that the overall message of the book was that even when someone has a dark past, they're capable of change and can be worthy of love. It's a cute story, albeit not the most original I've ever read, and I think it's a great choice for kids or anyone who appreciates children's literature. ...more
1 Sentence Summary: The day after Mary tries to escape from the orphanage, a mysterious old lady adopts her, and she is not who she claims to be.

My Thoughts: I loved this! It has a lot of Russian fairytale elements to it, which was really cool. It's a fun, middle-grade fantasy that drew me in. I also really liked the atmosphere of the book; it was kind of mysterious and magical.

Recommend to: Younger readers who like fantasy and fairytales.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020reads
Delightful audiobook for some YA fantasy / fable escapism during a pandemic.
Shelby Collins
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of those rare young adult novels that checks every box. Well written in a classic form, slightly mysterious, quirky, and imaginative while the story makes sense and is VERY well paced. The characters are well rounded and well developed. I appreciated the female leads who were all types of clever, intelligent, sensitive, independent, and brave. All of that, plus the details of the book have purpose (I love when an author can add in whimsical that also makes sense as part of the story) ...more
Jonathan Scordino
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyable book with likeable characters. I enjoy the use of Russian folklore creatures in the story.
May 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Best story that I have read this month
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fairy-tales
A well-written re-imagining of a Baba Yaga tale. The only reason it's not scored higher is because I recently read Egg and Spoon which is basically the same premise but more sophisticated. Still, a compelling read for younger readers. ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, 4th, 5th, 6th, fairy-tale
3 1/2 stars. A mystery adventure based on the Russian folktale Baba Yaga. There was a lot to like in this book, an intrepid girl, magical creatures, but two elements stopped me from loving it. While the writing is solid it is occasionally heavy-handed and oddly flat at the end. We are shown how brave Mary and then we are told how brave she is...repeatedly. We are told why characters like each other and reminded again and again how important a home is. I found this redundant and annoying and it m ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the book because my daughter liked it very much. She liked the unexpected ending.

As with others, this book reminded me of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away and a little bit of Howl's Moving Castle (mainly the magic and the walking house).

This book showed that things are not always what they seem. Good and evil are not always so absolute or black and white. After all, in real life, such concepts are relative to your perspective and people often forget that. Mary met her challenges with coura
Fi's Journey
I loved this story of Baba Yaga. I really enjoyed the relationship between Baba Yaga and Mary.

The story got me hooked from page one and I liked all the characters and magical elements in it.

The Russian folklore was intriguing as well.

I want to re-read this soon again to see If it's holding up to Sophie Anderson's book The House with Chicken Legs, which I really enjoyed, too.
This was fantastic! I read it over the course of two very busy days (otherwise it would have been one sitting!)

I loved all of the characters and how they grew. Figuring out which characters were what was pretty fun as well. The Russian folklore that was included was quite enchanting. The only reason that this is 4 stars is because I wasn't crazy about the ending.

(view spoiler)
Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Teddi Eberly
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tremendously clever spin on a Russian folklore character -- Baba Yaga. The ending had me in suspense.
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A heartwarming tale of adoption and finding friends, though I had a little difficulty believing that Baba Yaga would make a good mother.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing and original story, well narrated. The book will charm adults and children alike, is my guess.
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Summary (Amazon.com)
Mary has lived in a cruel and austere orphanage ever since her mother and brother died in a house fire. When foreign sounding Madame Z appears looking for a girl to adopt, Mary dares to believe her luck might finally be changing. Mary leaves with Madame Z and lands in Iris, a strange town filled with charlatans, pickpockets, and people with real magic. There she makes her first true friend, Jacob, the son of a magician.

Madame Z lives in a small but captivating home in the fo
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