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- author Jackie French

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Posts of Halloween Past: The Witches


No Halloween book line-up could be complete without the master of strange, Roald Dahl. He may be overtly known for his nonsense stories, but Dahl was also a writer of eerie renown and The Witches is one of his best.

The thing about Roald Dahl is that he not only writes amazing stories, he writes well. I think it's easy to forget how fluidly he writes because we all get caught up in the bizarre and hyper-creative stories that squidged from his pen.

But Dahl is a master of keeping-your-attention - not only within his stories but with regard to the flow of his prose - and lo, it is good.

A young, totally adorable lad lives with his great Grandmamma (after the death of his parents) and through her he learns all about witches - you see, she comes from Norway, where witches are rife.

To prepare her young grandson for the possibility of one day meeting a witch, Grandmamma prepares him by telling him how to identify one. They're bald, for one thing, and they always wear gloves (on account of their talon-like nails) - and you can always tell a witch when she takes off her shoes - for she has no toes at all.

They are also very very nice to children... until they get you alone and then whammo!! you're a gonner.

So, our little friend becomes somewhat of a witch expert - and when he and his Grandmamma go for a short break by the sea, he never imagines that very soon he will be caught in an entire roomful of witches, that he will come face-to-face with the Grand High Witch and that he'll witness a young boy being turned into a mouse!

But that's the least of his worries - it's when the witches attack HIM with mouse-morphing potion that he really smells a rat. Can this young lad and his granny stop these horrid kid-smelting crones before they wipe out the children of England?

Mesmerising, creepy, mentally evocative and pure entertainment, it was a joy to reread The Witches after many long decades - and reading it has inspired me once again to delve into my kids' Roald Dahl collection.

Gather the kids together, turn out the lights, grab a torch and begin readingThe Witches together this Halloween. It's frightfully good fun.

Review by Tania McCartney

Title: The Witches
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin, A$14.95RRP
Publication Date: this edition, 20 August 2007
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9780141322643
For ages: 8-12
Type: Junior Fiction

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