Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Witches

Dahl, R. (1983). The witches. New York: Scholastic.
This book is on the 100 Most Challenged Books list.

Right away I could see why this book would be on the 100 Most Challenged Books list.  At the very beginning of the story, Roald Dahl lets us know that there are witches everywhere, that they are hard to identify, AND they want to get rid of all of the children in the world.  On top of that, he tells the readers that the very teacher who may be reading this book to the them, might just be a witch also!  I have read several Roald Dahl books to my classes, but have never read this one.  And although the others had parts I had to skip over a bit (a bad word here and there) this one did seem to push the envelope a little more, based on the topic.  As the story unfolds, the narrator, a young boy, loses his parents in a car accident and must live with his grandmother, whom he loves dearly.  She tells him all about witches and how to recognize them. They decide to go on a vacation, and lo and behold, a witches' convention is at the same hotel!  The little boy gets caught in the same room with the witches, who are holding their annual meeting under the pretenses of being the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children."  The narrator recognizes that they are actually witches, but then he is discovered by all of the witches and turned into a mouse.  With the ability to speak still in place, he plots with his grandmother the witches' demise.  They are able to carry this out and then plot the end to all witches.  The story ends rather oddly, with the story really continuing as they move on with their plans to rid the world of all witches.

The story moves at a fast pace which keeps the reader interested.  Although the topic is frightening, anyone who has read Roald Dahl will recognize familiar themes such as the loss of family, gluttonous children, and the quirky behavior of characters, and will find comfort there.  In reading this book to younger students you would want to cover the difference between realistic fiction and fantasy and what characteristics each has. 

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