|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)|
Would you know a real witch if you saw one? They don’t ride on broomsticks. They don’t wear black capes or pointy hats. In fact, they don’t look like witches at all. But one thing is certain: A real witch is the most dangerous of all living creatures. So you’d better learn to know one when you see one!
The young hero of this award-winning story learns that lesson in a hurry when he encouters a whole gruesome gang of them. He’ll need all his wits about him to foil their wicked scheme—a dastardly plot to rid the world of children forever!
“This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.” So begins one of Roald Dahl’s best books ever, and, ironically, it is such a great story because the premise is perfectly plausible from the outset. When the narrator’s parents die in a car crash on page two (contrast this terribly real demise with that of James’s parents who are devoured by an escaped rhinoceros in James and the Giant Peach), he is taken in by his cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother, who has learned a storyteller’s respect for witches and is wise to their ways.
The bond between the boy and his grandmother becomes the centrepiece of the tale—a partnership of love and understanding that survives even the boy’s unfortunate transformation into a mouse. And once the two have teamed up to outwitch the witches, the boy’s declaration that he’s glad he’s a mouse because he will now live only as long as his grandmother is far more poignant than eerie.
Of course, there’s adventure here along with Dahl’s trademark cleverness and sense of the grotesque. Dahl also communicates some essential truths to children: if they smoke cigars, they’ll never catch cold, and, most importantly, they should never bathe, because a clean child is far, far easier for a witch to smell than a dirty one. (Ages 7 to 10, or read aloud to younger children)
This splendid adventure-fantasy from 1990 was adapted from Roald Dahl’s book and directed by maverick British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg, who turned out to be a perfect (if seemingly unlikely) interpreter of Dahl’s fiendishly clever tale of witchcraft in contemporary England. Scary, funny, and wildly entertaining, it’s all about a young boy named Luke (Jasen Fisher) whose parents have died in a tragic accident, and whose grandmother (Mai Zetterling) takes him to a posh hotel in England, where a secret coven of witches is holding its annual convention. The Grand High…