Beef, Beer and Books: Or, a review of Roald Dahl’s The Witches

I wanted to review Roald Dahl’s The Witches for banned books week, but I didn’t even get the book from the library until after my volunteer shift Friday afternoon, and then the hubster offered to take me out for burgers and beer. No way was I going to pass up an Avocado Bacon Cheeseburger at the Cornerstone Pub (with fries and a pint of Chocolate Stout from Off The Rail), so I happily left the book on my bedside table and climbed in to the hubster’s truck. (It runs on biodiesel. The horn plays Dixie. It has a HUGE CB antennae on the front, which bangs in to tree branches if he drives in the left lane on a one way street. A bright green 55 gallon drum with the words “Whup Ass” hand-painted on the side is often strapped in the bed. He drives down the road blaring bagpipe music as loud as the speakers can handle. The hubster is SO going to be a character in my first novel . . .) When we got back I was full and sleepy from beer (I am a complete lightweight–I didn’t even finish my pint, but that was, apparently, enough), and I fell asleep reading the book at about 8:30. I swear I’m beginning to keep a geriatric sleep schedule. I fear that by the time I’m 80 I’ll be going to bed at 4 p.m. Anyway, I did read it first thing when I woke up Saturday morning.

And now you know what an exciting, wild life I lead.

I read James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and even Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator as a child, but somehow I missed The Witches. I don’t think there was any parental intervention, because my parents pretty much let me read what I wanted, so I’m not sure why I didn’t read it. I don’t think I even heard of the book until looking at lists of banned books, come to think of it. So of course I was curious about it.

Synopsis from the back of the book:

Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories–but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with the Grand High Witch herself!

You know, I find it very funny that this book was challenged for being about witches, when the witches are the villains! It’s pretty vehemently anti-witch, as a matter of fact (since the witches in this book kill children). I can see being worried that it might frighten a sensitive child–the witches are sort of ghastly. But promote witchcraft? I’m not sure how.

Mind you, there is a part where you learn how to make a potion to turn children in to mice–but since it involves boiling the wrong end of a telescope until soft, roasting an alarm clock in the oven until it is crisp and tender, and also calls for a gruntle’s egg, the claw of a crabcruncher, the beak of a blabbersnitch, the snout of a grobblesquirt and the tongue of a catspringer, I think it’s safe to assume our children won’t be able to brew the potion up in the kitchen while we’re running the vacuum cleaner on Sunday afternoon.

It’s sort of a twisted little book–but then, I think most of Dahl’s books are a little twisted, which is why kids love him so much. I have to say, though, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach (of course, I was a kid when I read those books, that might make the difference), but it was a fun read and I’m sure as a kid I would have been mesmerized . . . and a little creeped out.

And finally, this is only marginally related to this post, but it is rather funny . . .

How Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory should have ended.

Another blog entry on The Witches

Wikipedia’s The Witches entry


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