The Witches by Roald Dahl
Published by Scholastic, Inc. (first published 1983)
Softcover, 208 pages
Genres: children's fiction, classics, fantasy, humor, magic, YA
5/5 stars: As I've mentioned before, the wee one and I have started reading chapter books together before sleepytimes. I always give him the choice between 2 or 3 books and this is the very first one he chose. He has a long-standing fascination with witches, magic and all things deliciously "spooky". This was perfect. A little creepy, a little subversive, always wickedly good fun.
"A REAL WITCH gets the same pleasure from squelching a child as you get from eating a plateful of strawberries and thick cream.
"She reckons on doing away with one child a week. Anything less than that and she becomes grumpy.
"One child a week is fifty-two a year.
"Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear.
"That is the motto of all witches."
After which comes a description of a typical child-entrapment with a helpful illustration by Quentin Blake. The characters are so much fun, my favorites, of course, being the little boy who narrates and his Grandmamma. They are spunky and charming and very memorable. While I don't want to give anything away, The Witches has perhaps the absolute sweetest ending I have ever encountered, and it made me just a little teary. I'm pretty sure Gabriel's favorite characters would be the witches themselves, and believe me, they were something. As it turns out, a witch has claws instead of fingernails, forcing her to always wear gloves. She is bald, meaning she must always wear a scritchy-scratchy wig (and oh! the things it does to her scalp!). She has extra-large nostrils with which to smell out children. The center of her eyes will change color and dance with fire and ice. She has no toes and has to force her squared feet into feminine pointy shoes. Her spit is "blue as a bilberry", Grandmamma explains. And The Grand High Witch? She can do powerful dark magic, frizzle witches whom she is annoyed with, transform her face with a flesh-like mask, and come up with a "giganticus plan for getting rrrid of every single child in the whole of Inkland!" Gabriel was in heaven the whole time we read this book, cuddling up even closer when the story got particularly spooky. We have been reading some fantastic children's literature, but none of it has quite measured up to The Witches. Both I and the wee one very highly recommend it!