A Tuesday Ten: Witch Way

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!

Reviews: Time Jump

Time Jump by Timothy J. Bradley (Teacher Created Materials, Expected Publication: November 2014)

Think school is boring?  Not for these futuristic kids!  Here at SciHi, science, science fiction and adventure combine for our intrepid protagonists.  And this will be a very “timely” adventure indeed .

In a near future world where technology is a bit more advanced than our own, Sidney Jamison is just your average curious kid with a penchant for taking things apart  and figuring out how they work . . . and maybe getting them back together again.  Okay, so Sidney isn’t quite so average, and neither is his school.   Fourteen year old Sid is attending the elite school for budding scientific minds, Sci Hi where he and his friends, Penny and Hari can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble–or adventures!  It’s an ordinary day at SciHi, creating wild inventions and hosting nanobot competitions . . . until the entire Goddard Island is thrown millions of years back in time.

Clearly time travel is not only possible–it’s being used as sabotage!  Someone doesn’t want SciHi to ever reach it’s home time again.  Now the brilliant minds of SciHi must find a way to jump the entire island back to the future!  But while the professors are busy working out the particulars of time travel to undo what has been done, surely there’s some time to check out the wildlife.  After all,  wouldn’t you want to see some real live dinosaurs if you had the opportunity?  It’s a class field trip even Ms. Frizzle couldn’t imagine.    Sid, Penny and Hari not only get into some close confrontations with crazy critters, they make an even more stunning discovery . . . one that will mean everything to Sid.  Of course, the nefarious Alchemists are lurking in the shadows, ready to do whatever they can to disrupt SciHi and forward their own goals!

Time travel books are not incredibly unusual in middle-grade fiction.  But there are fairly few that take a SF approach.  Timothy J. Bradley captures that idea of the fun of time travel . . . going back to meet dinosaurs and other ancient creatures face to face.  Seriously, when you were a kid, did you think about time travel and think “oh I wish I would be zapped back to the 1950s?”  If you did, I’m suitably impressed.  But when I was a kid, I dreamed of having that time machine that’d take me back in time to the pages of my dinosaur books . . .    The author takes pains to be up to date with current prehistoric knowledge and to give us a range of creatures rather than the cliched T-Rex and Triceratops style of creatures anyone knows about if they’ve heard of dinosaurs.  With it’s shorter length and black and white illustrations, this is perfect for those younger or more reluctant readers who are looking for an exciting story but intimidated by too much narrative.    Like the last two books, the author mixes up the illustrations, some being full scenes, while others are a diagram of a tool, building or vehicle.  The benefit of having this novel illustrated by it’s author is that you know your getting a clear image of the things Timothy Bradley is describing.

For those interested, I reviewed the first book in this series, Hive Mind (2013) here.   And the second book, Ripple Effect (2014) here.  In the first review I explained why books like this are so essential to make available to young readers.  They are series books, meant to be read as an ongoing series of adventures, much like other fantasy adventure series and mystery series out there, but the key is they are not simply in a science fiction universe–the stories explore science and scientific concepts.  In order to inspire the next generation of readers with ambitions of being scientists, explorers, innovators and engineers, we have to provide them stories that help them imagine what that might mean.  Provide them with what if’s that can prompt youngsters to one day want to invent a time travel tool, or design their own nanobot.

Adventure and science fun combine from page one in this third book.  Sid and his crew are designing nanobots to fight against one another . . . which is wild when you consider how tiny those bots actually are!  When the entire island is zapped back in time, there’s more at stake than merely a wild trip through time.  Sid’s back story with his missing father and the ongoing fight against the Alchemists is going to come to a head.  More than ever before Alchemists and the scientists and students of Goddard Island are going to clash with one another.  There’s plenty here for the readers who simply want to read about time travel into the prehistoric, but there’s also a continuing story thread that will tie this book back to the earlier two . . . and lead eventually into the fourth story of Sid and his friends.

The back of the book contains a Reader’s Guide chock full of  information, discussions to have about the book, a suggested science project and a short quiz as to whether you would survive  prehistory.  This book is a great way of tying fiction in with fact and coaxing kids to delve into nonfiction that will touch on topics mentioned here.

I hope kids will pick these up and read them, and be inspired to discover, invent and explore!

Here are a few nonfiction reads to go along with the title:

Note: An advanced copy of this work was provided by the author.

Publisher: Teacher Created Materials

Expected Publication Date: November 2014

ISBN13:  9781480742154

Recommended for grades 3-5

Flashback Friday: Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale . . .

Once upon a time . . . there was a mermaid who wanted a soul, and a boy with a shard of mirror in his heart, and a one-legged soldier who loved a cardboard dancer . . . magical fairy tales from a master of storytelling that have been with us for over a century.


Do you remember:

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Frederick Richardson (John C. Winston Company, 1926)

I’ve loved fairy tales since I was small, and so far I’ve covered two of my beloved fairy tale collections with Flashback Friday posts.  The first here:  Once upon a time . . . and the second here: Those Dusty old shelves . . . .  This time I’m featuring a collection er . . . borrowed from my parents’ shelves that later later my mom agreed I should simply keep.  Andersen’s short stories are termed fairy tales . . . but they’re not really in the same class of fairy tales as those of the Brothers Grimm or other collected folklore.  The Brothers Grimm collected their tales and compiled them from the countryside.  They drew from many sources and put in writing stories that had been merely oral tradition before that.

This mermaid image is among my favorites . . . so different from Ariel.

This mermaid image is among my favorites . . . so different from Ariel.

While many of Andersen’s tales have something of the feel of those stories–they’re much richer, fuller tales.  Full of more metaphorical stories, deeper darker tales with ambiguous endings.   Andersen is wordy and detailed, but some of his works have become part of our lives and culture.  The Ugly Duckling is likely the one most people know, and has been recounted in some version or another again and again.  The Little Mermaid is one where people are much more likely to  remember the Disney version (and happy ending).  The Snow Queen has images that have permeated many stories throughout the decades, but most recently we’ve seen a rendition of this in the movie Frozen (2013).

From the end papers of the 1926 edition.

I was fortunate enough to have these stories to pore over  before I was exposed to more modern interpretations.  This book, rich with Andersen’s words, bound in dark red with the stunning book plate illustrations of Frederick Richardson was like a real treasure box to open and read.  The gorgeous images included formed my ideas of these characters and stories, and  left me studying the pictures for hours.  More than once I tried to sketch my own image from one of the book plates.  Richardson contributed to many books of folklore and fairytale in his tenure as an illustrator, but this one remains my favorite.

One of the lesser known Andersen tales "The Traveling Companion" I reread this one about  a hundred times.

One of the lesser known Andersen tales “The Traveling Companion” I reread this one about a hundred times.

I’m firmly of the opinion every home should have an armful of fairy tale and folklore collections–especially ones as beautiful as this.

Comments welcome!


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