By Roald Dahl (1983)
Ah, Roald Dahl. The silly. The witty. The macabre.
For some adults, he is an acquired taste. But for most children he is a can’t-get-enough, where-can-I-get-his-next-book delight. (And he’s been gone for decades.)
Almost everyone knows of the James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But what to read and share next with children from the Roald Dahl canon?
This brings us to…The Witches. It won’t be for everyone. Sensitive, younger children may be too scared. From the charming, silly, ridiculous early chapter – “How to Recognize a Witch” – to the young (unnamed) protagonist’s first encounter with those self-same witches, in all their ridiculous, unabashed glory – will be more than some children can take. They will have to wait.
But for families and groups, for schools and communities who know their children will relish the prickly tension of this-isn’t-really-real, so-why-am-I-so-enthralled? – The Witches may be just the ticket.
Dahl tells his tale with detailed abandon and precision. The story moves briskly. The prose is as ever rich and descriptive, relishing the horrible delights of the sneaky, devious, scheming witches. Dahl even plays with the reader’s expectations as to to the fate of his protagonist – and his hearty, healthy, can-do, make-the-best-of-it attitude will be balm to many a child and parent.
Perhaps it’s like horror films – not for everyone, and yet lurking inside each of us – children and grown-up children alike – is can’t-turn-away fascination and curiosity.
Children listening to The Witches frequently insist, “Don’t stop now. Keep reading!” And it’s that kind of discovered enthusiasm we’re trying to kindle via One School, One Book.
So venture into the world or Roald Dahl’s The Witches if you dare. (Or while you’re waiting for the safer fare of Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory.).