Having narrowly avoided becoming dinner in The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children (2009), sibs Sol and Connie face another folkloric fate in this equally gothic sequel.
Hoping to leave child-eating neighbor Fay Holaderry far behind, Sol and Connie board a departing bus—but then incautiously step off while the driver fixes a flat and are immediately lost in a justly ill-reputed forest. Fortunately, they run into Monique, a friendly forester who leads them to her cabin. Unfortunately, Monique is another evil witch, who transforms the children into animals for her bespelled huntsman, David, to hunt down and convert into taxidermy exhibits. McGowan infuses his tale with Brothers Grimm–style motifs and atmosphere, but obscure riddles, Sol’s homemade computer and several other elements turn out to clutter the story rather than contribute to it. Furthermore, David’s fatalistic ruminations on his curse (recorded in multiple journal entries) are likely to leave even adult readers cold, and his relationship with Monique comes off as, at best, ambiguous. Tanaka’s scenes of androgynous-looking children gradually acquiring animal parts ably abet the atmosphere.
Extraneous elements, rampant psycho-symbolism and multiple point-of-view switches turn this into a loosely woven grab-bag, but the resolution does provide some satisfaction. (Fantasy. 11-13)