A few months ago, my little sister came to me and insisted that I read The Witches.
It was, she informed me, the creepiest book she had ever read in her entire life, and I need to read it as soon as humanly possible.
Given that she is twelve, a great reader, and a remarkably discerning judge of books, I immediately found my own copy of The Witches and began.
And she was right.
It was incredibly creepy.
Roald Dahl continues to fascinate me with his interesting take on children’s books. I appreciate his determined unwillingness to talk down to children, his fascinating and unpredictable stories, and the way his writing and his characters pull me straight off the page and into the world he is describing, often before I myself know what is happening. Matilda, another great favorite of mine (and, incidentally, my sister’s) introduced me to his bewitching style and otherworldly books, and I have found myself on the lookout for more of his work to add to my shelves.
The Witches quickly found its place beside Matilda on my bookshelf. This charming and deliciously terrifying story of a young boy, his grandmother, and the tales she tells him of the witches that are such a threat to small children was quickly a new favorite of mine. A real witch, you know, looks just like any other ordinary lady when you see her on the street or in the shops. She will smile at you and bob her head politely, or perhaps pause a minute to comment on the weather and ask about your mother.
But real witches are, of course, incredibly dangerous. Because real witches, not the kind you find in storybooks or in the movies, but real, honest to goodness witches . . . hate children.
And so, with this clearly stated, the story of a young boy and his grandmother begins. A boy who dislikes bathing, knows ever so many stories about witches and just how to recognize them, and has just a smidgen too much curiosity for his own good. That curiosity and downright nosiness brings him face to face with the Grand High Witch herself, and although through a little cleverness of his own and a good deal of luck, he is able to slip away at the last second, his world is quite definitely altered by the meeting.
Because, after all, there is really no one who can meet the Grand High Witch herself and not come away from it in some way different from what they once were.
In The Witches, Roald Dahl has managed to spin a tale that has just the right amount of whimsy, goosebumps, and breathless excitement to keep any reader, no matter their age, interested. I very much enjoyed my journey through its pages, and will be searching out other titles in Dahl’s collection as soon as possible.
“I don’t mind at all,” I said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.”