Monday, November 9, 2009
Dahl, Roald. The Witches. Quentin Blake, illus. Puffin, 2007 (c1983). 206 p. PBK $6.99 ISBN 978-0142410110
SUMMARY: "A young boy and his Norwegian grandmother, who is an expert on witches, together foil a witches' plot to destroy the world's children by turning them into mice."
RISKS: Cigar smoking, occult
EVALUATION: Part of what I admire about Dahl's writing is how he mixes fun, mischief, quirkiness, and humor, with a dash of horror and somehow creates fascinating and well-balanced storytelling. The Witches may be one of his best examples of this. Another part of the formula is that all the adults are unlikeable in some way, except for the one good, trusted adult who aids the child protagonist, and is much of the time a part of the mischief, in this case, the boy and his grandmamma share this adventurous bond. And finally, as Erica Jong put it so well, The Witches is "a curious but honest tale which deals with matters of crucial importance to children: smallness, the existence of evil in the world, mourning, separation, death" (from "The Boy Who Became a Mouse" in The New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1983).
READER'S ANNOTATION: What does a witch really look like? Are witches walking among us? For the hero in The Witches, these are deadly serious questions to be answered, and not without a price.
TOPICS: magic; witches; grandmothers; storytelling; mice; adventures; love;
AWARDS: Whitbread Children's Book Award, 1983