Since Halloween is just a few days away, I thought I’d break out a category that’s pretty plentiful in children’s fiction, but always fun to explore. We’re talking witches! I’ve included books here where the witch is a character with impact on the story and that witchcraft plays a part.
Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson (Scholastic, c1979)
If you want me to name my favorite book by this author, it’d have to be this one. I checked out the copy from our library so often over the years and read and re-read it. In what amounts to a witchcraft version of The Bachelor, the Arriman the Awful, Wizard of the North has had a prophecy that says he must marry, so he sets up a contest for all the local witches to compete for his hand in marriage. Belladonna, the only white witch of the bunch is head over heels for Arriman, but how can she even hope to compete when she can’t even perform a spell that’a a little bit dark? Charming, funny and great fun in the Ibbotson tradition.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (Puffin Books, c1974)
Long before there was Hogwarts, there was Miss Cackle’s Academy for young witches. Mildred Hubble is a new trainee at the academy who just about seems to get everything wrong. But when a threat comes to the school, it’s Mildred who will save the day! This is the first book in the Worst Witch series. Back in print and available on library shelves!
The Witches by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Puffin, c1983)
What list of witches would be complete without this Dahl classic? Some of the most repulsive witches out there, these creatures are balled, with square feet and they hate children (whom to witches smell like doggy doo). The witches of England have come up with a way to eliminate all children through their nefarious magic, but one boy figures out a way to outsmart them and turn the tables. Roald Dahl level creepy with just the right punch of fun and adventure!
No Such thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew (Random House Books for Young Readers, c1971)
Republished just last year after a long time off the shelves, these lightweight books of contemporary magic were some of the first I read as a child. No such thing as a witch tells the story of two children who are convinced they have a witch living next door! They’ll find out for sure, however, after they get a taste of her enchanted fudge . . . One piece makes you like animals, two pieces lets you talk to animals, three makes act like an animal and four will turn you into an animal . . .
Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones (William Morrow and Company, c1982)
Another author that I certainly couldn’t leave off the list! In this multiverse story at a boarding school, accusations of witchcraft are flying everywhere and the danger of being burned as a witch is a real one in this alternate world. Every student has some kind of secret to hide, or agenda of their own . . . and only Chrestomanci will be able to sort them all out! Still a great read after so many years. Who’s the real witch at work in this book?
Well Witched by Frances Hardinge (HarperCollins, c2008)
When three friends steal coins from an old well, they think no one will notice or care. But they’re mistaken, the witch of the well cares and she will exact her price for their crime. Payback means that the three will be forced to serve her, and the old wishes in the well. But being under a witch’s thumb will not be an easy thing to escape . . .
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (Corgi Children’s, c2004)
The second book in the wonderful Tiffany Aching series, in this title we get to see Tiffany begin her apprenticeship as a witch. It’s not everything she’d hoped it to be, and at first everything just seems wrong. But when a mysterious force called the Hiver comes after Tiffany, she’ll learn a great deal about the ways of magic, and the ways of witches. Not your typical witch to be sure, but these Discworld witches are some of the best!
The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
In this over-the-top tale of a young witch, Poppy’s natural talent for magic makes her parents ambition soar. They want her to attend the best schools and follow in the footsteps of her illustrious ancestors. Only one problem. Poppy doesn’t have much interest in magic, she’d rather bake. Poppy’s dreams are of pies and cakes and newly discovered recipes . . . but when her parents forbid baking in hopes of getting Poppy to focus on her magical talent, they may just tip Poppy over to the dark side.
The Only Thing Worse than Witches by Lauren Magaziner (Dial, August 2014)
A new offering from this year, this title is pure silliness and wildly larger-than-life characters. Rupert Campbell is fascinated by witches, even if his magic-hating mother wants nothing to do with them. So when he spots an ad in the newspaper to be a witch’s apprentice, he jumps at the chance. But Witchling, with her magical incompetence and fear of rabbits is hardly what Rupert expects to find.
Dorrie’s Magic by Patricia Coombs (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1962)
This Dorrie the Little Witch series is sadly out of print. Light-hearted adventures of a young witch in training whose had is crooked and whose socks don’t match. In this first book, Dorrie mixes up some magic to help clean her room, but winds up with domestic chaos insead.
So there’s my ten! Feel free add your own titles in the comments!