The Witches

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The Witches

Roald Dahl
Pictures by Quentin Blake
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013, 1983

From the dust jacket, “When the young hero of The Witches is orphaned by an automobile accident, he is left in the care of his aged grandmother, a formidable cigar-smoking lady who happens to be a retired expert on dealing with witches. In spite of her warnings about how to spot these awful creatures, her grandson accidentally wanders into the annual convocation of the witches of England—and overhears the horrifying plans in store for every child in the country. But before he can escape to reveal the witches’ plot, he is captured and turned into, well … you will have to read and find out. for certain he is no ordinary hero and this is no ordinary tale.”

What a fun book! I read it straight through even though its 202 pages long! But be warned: if you’re afraid of mice or witches or the terrible, awful things they do to youngsters, then you might not want to read the book. Just kidding!!! While the book does portray witches in a terrible light, as the author reminds his reader, the book is written for kittens, not adults. Kittens know not to take anything in Roald Dahl’s books seriously and that his outlandish writing is for fun and laughter. So, if you’re witch without a sense of humor and are unable to laugh at yourself and your fellow witches – DON’T read this book! I promise you – you WILL be offended. If you’re a kitten, then get your minders to check out this book for you as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for lots of fun, lots of mice and even a mention of cats!!!

Reviewer:

jack-loc
Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

Banned/Challenged Information

This book was banned by some libraries in England because of perceived misogyny. The reason? Dahl says that witches can only be women. Also challenged because our hero misbehaves and takes retribution on adults without consequences for his action and because it devalues the life of a child.
It was also challenged in:
1987 in Amana, Iowa for being “too sophisticated and did not teach moral values”;

1989 in Billings, Montana because Dahl made a comment indicating parents had no sense of humor;

1990 in Goose Lake, Iowa for violence, turning people into mice and the word “slut” (I don’t remember reading that word);

1991 in Dallas, Oregon for the possibility of enticing kids to study witchcraft or the occult;

1992 in Escondido, California for fear of desensitizing kids to violence and increasing interest in witchcraft;
1992, La Mesa-Spring Valley, California for depiction of witches as ordinary women that children cannot defend against and for promoting the Wiccan religion and witchcraft;

1993 in Spenser, Wisconsin for desensitizing children to crimes related to witchcraft;

1994 in Battle Creek, Michigan a parent claimed the book was “satanic”;

1995 in Stafford, Virginia for crude language and encouraging children to be disobedient;

1997 in Wichita Falls, Texas for satanic themes;

1998 in Dublin, Ohio because the book is “derogatory to children hurtful to self-esteem and conflicted with religious and moral beliefs.”

Now, if all of that nonsense doesn’t want to make you read the book, just because, well, I don’t know what else to say!

 

James and the Giant Peach

James-and-the-Giant-PeachJames and the Giant Peach

Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Borzoi Book, Alfred A Knopf, 1996, 1961

Here is another childhood classic I seemed to miss out on in my kittenhood. A happy little boy whose parents tragically die goes to live with 2 hateful aunts and he dreams of escape. What child or kitten who was so angry and his or her parents or guardians that they didn’t wish they could escape the way James did!

James’ aunts made him so unhappy and work so hard, one day a strange little man comes along and gives him some magic green things that he’s supposed to swallow. But on his way to go in the house his aunts stop him, put him back to work and when he goes back to chopping wood he trips and spills the bag of magic green things at the base of a peach tree. Those magic green things make the peach tree that had never even blossomed grow a peach so big – it was as big as a house! James finds his way inside the peach, meets some insects who have partaken of the magic green things and they have grown large as well. He makes friends with them and they loosen the peach from its tree and off they go to a grand adventure rolling through the English countryside, splashing down into the English Channel, escaping from sharks, flying with seagulls until at last, they come to New York City where, yes it really happened, they all live happily ever after.

This was the first of Roald Dahl’s many children’s books in which “His books stand as modern fairy tales in which powerless children triumph over evil adults. He is widely acknowledged as a literary genius who changed children’s literature forever.” (Taken from the afterword, “About the Author”) I couldn’t have said it better myself. I really like this book. It is imaginative and original, especially for the time it was written and is a good beginner book for introducing kids to a world  in which they have the power to effect change. Even if kids are too young to read it themselves, it’s a good read-aloud story for nap or bedtime, one or two chapers at  a time. And, in the last chapters, the reader is introduced to creatures we would meet again in Charlie and the Chocolate factory – if only in our imaginations—the famous Snozzwanger, Whangdoodle and Vermicious Knid!

Book Rating:  4 paws

james_and_the_giant_peach_After I read the book, mom got the dvd from the library and we watched it. The movie is very different from the book and we liked the book MUCH better!!!  (The cloud creatures are completely omitted and the school of sharks turns into one mechanical shark.)

Movie Rating:2 paws

simon 2 locReviewer: Simon

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