Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Witches...random thoughts



The Witches by Roald Dahl.

I was a big reader as a kid. But you know, I've come to the conclusion that I must have read a lot of crap. I'm only half kidding there. While I really did read all the time, I honestly remember very little of what I read. Now on the one hand, the books I read really weren't crap, after all, they certainly set up a lifelong love of reading. But on the other hand, I find it utterly amazing how few of the children's classics I've actually read. Take Roald Dahl...The Witches is my very first venture into his world. But you know, instead of regret, I think I'll take the attitude of joyful anticipation in knowing there's so many more wonderful books out there for me to discover.

The Witches hooked us (Gray, Max, and I) from page one:

In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks.
But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.
The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.
REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS.
That is why they are so hard to catch.
A REAL WITCH hates children with a red-hot sizzling hatred that is more sizzling and red-hot than any hatred you could possibly imagine.


Can't you just tell that it's going to be a delightfully thrilling book just from that opening?!!

It is the story of a boy, who comes to live with his beloved Grandmamma in Norway after his parents are killed. His grandmother is an expert on witches, and she begins teaching her grandson about the precautions he should be taking. For one thing, while, as we learn in the passage above, witches look like ordinary women, there are clues that one can look out for. For example, witches always wear gloves because their fingernails aren't of the human variety, but are more like animal claws. Secondly, witches wear wigs, because they are all actually bald.

Witches, by the way, live all around the world in every country. They form a sort of organization, headed by the Grand High Witch. She travels the world, attending a sort of witches' convention which is held in each country, each year.

Now the boy and his grandmother are forced to move back to England because of a stipulation in his parents' will. After the boy finishes up the school year, they plan to spend the summer holiday in Norway. But the grandmother suffers a slight illness, and her doctor insists she vacation closer to home. And this is how they end up at the Hotel Magnificent at the very same time as the witches' meeting in England.

One day, the boy finds himself accidentally locked in a huge meeting room at the hotel with a bunch of women from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Of course, these women aren't who they say they were. In fact, they aren't really women at all. Every witch from England is in this meeting hall. And the boy overhears their diabolical plan for ridding England of its children once and for all...

I honestly can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. It was a pure delight, but definitely not a delight of the sugar-coated variety. In fact, at the start I worried just a wee bit that it might be slightly too scary for the boys. But it wasn't. No, they loved every word of it! In fact, this is the very first chapter book that I've read to them that Max actually stuck with for each and every page. While he loves for us to read him shorter books, he tends to get bored with the couple chapters a night routine of a longer book. Not this time, let me tell you...he exclaimed that it was his favorite book ever! (Shocking, considering it wasn't even about cats.)

15 comments:

jupitersinclair said...

The Witches is the only Roald Dahl book I haven't read! How is this possible? I must now read it :)

Jessica said...

Debi, I'm so glad that you found this book, even though you didn't get to enjoy it as a child. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors of all time. I just get the feeling when I read his books that he wrote it with me in mind.

Nymeth said...

I completely missed out on Roald Dahl as a child too. I must have been 19 or 20 when I read my first book by him. But it's never too late, and he quickly became one of my favourite authors. You do have a lot of great discoveries ahead of you :D

I actually haven't read this one yet...I must! And hmmm, Roald Dahl would be perfect for the Read-a-thon.

Jean said...

Perhaps I can make you feel young, Debi. Just how old were you in 1983 when The Witches was first published? I was 27, which hardly counts as a child (pay no attention to how that woman over there is acting). So it would have been impossible for me to have read Witches as a child. Actually, I still haven't read it, but may have to after your review.

DesLily said...

I remember reading James and the Giant Peach to my kids when they were really young and they loved it. (that and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are the only 2 i really remember, but I did read more than that to them!)

This one begins great! Brought a smile to my face! I can just see the kids faces when reading that LOL LOL..

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

My childhood reading consisted of The Babysitter's Club. But at least I was reading. I can't recall what I've read by Roald Dahl. Like you I'm looking forward to a lot of great reading out there.

Carl V. said...

I'm glad you are enjoying Dahl. I only discovered him as an adult working in a bookstore, so don't feel bad. If you guys liked this you have got to read The Twits. It is laugh out loud funny!

Kim L said...

What fun! I love Roald Dahl, I think he is such a great writer. I remember really liking Matilda by him. This one sounds just as good!

raidergirl3 said...

Roald Dahl = Stephen King for kids

Melody said...

OK, I'll have to start looking for his books now! ;)

Somer said...

I loved this book, too, as did my kids. Surprisingly, my weird-loving husband thought it was just too weird.

fuzzycricket said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your review of this book, especially the comments about your reading buddies enjoying it, even without cats. I think any time we can connect with kids while sharing a really great story is time well spent.

Nicely done!

Dewey said...

I love Roald Dahl! He's one of the few authors whose books I actively choose to keep as a sort of collection rather than giving them to Bookmooch (or in the past, selling them at the second hand bookstore or donating them to libraries). I actually have a whole Roald Dahl shelf, and I can't say that about any other author except Shakespeare, and most of those books are our former school books.

Anyway, he has a whole bunch of books for adults that most people don't know about. If you think you want to try him as an adult writer, if you like short stories, maybe first try Omnibus. If you like the style (not zany like his kids' books) you might try some of his novels.

Stephanie said...

The Witches is one of my son's favorite books! I've always meant to read it, but sadly have never gotten around to it!! One of these days! I never read any Dahl as a kid, but Chad has read them all.

Rhinoa said...

I've been thinking lately that I want to go back and read this again plus Dahl's other books. Such a great book and when I first read it I remember looking for signs of witches everywhere!