Tuesday, October 31, 2006


WITCH CATCHER by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion)
Well, Ms. Hahn scared us cross-eyed with one of the most masterful ghost stories of juvenile literature, WAIT TILL HELEN COMES, so why not let's show her some love with her latest? Jen is thrilled to move into the castle that her father has inherited, and less thrilled with Maura, the woman he chose to marry since her mother passed away. Maura's obsessive passion for antiques is the least of her problems, or so Jen thinks. When Jen accidently breaks a glass globe from Maura's collection, the stepmother becomes increasingly creepy. If only Jen had known what that little orb held...and what she has unleashed!

This book is a combo pack of the contemporary and the classic. Though the stigma of the unwanted stepmother was one stereotype I think we could possibly do without, the strength of the story is in Jen, a problem-solving twelve-year-old who corrals her own power, and a supernatural plot that will engage and enchant many a reading thrill-seeker. And I have to wonder, what would that little glass globe would be appraised for on Antiques Roadshow? (10 and up)

Also of interest:
THE WITCH FAMILY by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt) is about a million times more mild than THE WITCH CATCHER, but since witches are likely on the fly tonight, I thought I'd offer up something more to read! We have the story of two good friends who love to write and draw pictures of a family of witches and making up stories, little knowing that as they do, they are coming to life in a distant, make-believe land. All forces converge on Halloween, when the girls meet the dear little witch, and are whisked away to the glass hill where it as clear that a mermaid, a baby sister witch and a bumblebee named Malachi have overstepped their written and drawn adventures, and where the embittered, banished Old Witch wreaks her mischief. This reissue has a snazzy new cover but smartly maintained the inimitable spot illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. When I found this book in the "discard" pile of my public library when I was about ten years old, I clutched it to my chest with both hands and tears filled my eyes...could I really take it home? It was one of the most magical reads of a childhood, old-fashioned in the very, very best sense of the word, and I am so excited to pass it on to you as a read-aloud treat. See, no need to toilet paper my tree! (7 and up)

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