“My darling…you won’t last long in this world if you don’t know how to spot a witch when you see one.”
This is not a fairy-tale. This is about real witches. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Goodreads.
I read this book as a child and I have re-read it several times since then. It is my go-to recommendation for middle grade spooky reads. The reasons are simple. A nameless boy and his nameless Gramamama fight evil with two simple skills: communication and observation. Just the ability to look around and see what’s happening and talk to an adult about your concerns. In addition, even though the child’s parents are killed (can’t kids go on adventures with their parents?) the Grandmama actually listens to her grandson. It may seem silly but think about it, how many children’s books have you read where the underlying theme is, “parents just don’t understand”? Around the world there are children who talk to and are listened to by adults in their lives. But, somehow, in fiction our under-age protagonists are usually saddled with parents who don’t believe them in addition to their bigger problem. I love this book for the simple fact that it showcases an adult and a child working together.
Also, neither Grandmama nor the Grandson have any super powers. The Grandson isn’t gifted with super intelligence either. They are just regular people working together to thwart evil.
And the evil? It looks like a regular adult. The world is frequently terrifying to kids today. They know, or are taught, that there is evil everywhere in the world. But, if you know how to spot it you can stay safe.
This book is not perfect. It is a rare book that can claim that title. I will admit, I vastly preferred the ending in the movie to the one in the book (sacrilege, I know!). And, certainly, Dahl has been accused of darker motives.
But, The Witches is still one of my favorite Frighteningly Good Reads and one I highly recommend. The scary and macabre tone has an underpinning of the importance of listening to each other. And, one day, I hope I am the kind of Grandmama that makes a cup of cocoa, sits down and says,
“Tell me everything.”
Tell me, please!
Do you have a favorite Roald Dahl book?