THE WITCHES

By a talky, roundabout route, Dahl slyly (if deterringly) takes the narrator—ostensibly himself at seven—into the delicious, ambiguous situation of being a mouse-boy. . . who turns the tables on his tormentors. We first hear about witches: they spend their time plotting to get rid of children, "they all look like nice ladies," they are difficult but not impossible to spot. Then, we hear about Dahl's cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother, who told him about witches and how to spot them: they all wear wigs to cover their bald heads, for one thing, and have itchy scalps. So, when Dahl and his grandmother are at a Bournemouth hotel, and the lady-delegates to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children conference start scratching away (p. 57), Dahl is wary. Then the pretty head lady takes off her mask: the Grand High Witch incarnate! To demonstrate her Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker, she's already fed some to greedy, obnoxious little Bruno Jenkins—who turns into a mouse on schedule. Will Dahl be detected, hiding behind a screen? He hasn't washed in days, but some of that tell-tale child-scent, anathema to witches, escapes. Forcefed the potion, he joins Bruno scampering about the floor—but they still have their own voices, and his wonderful witchophile grandmother will know what to do. Actually, Dahl's wits have if anything sharpened. With his grandmother as a confederate, he steals a bottle of the potion; pours it into the witch-delegates' soup tureen; and has the exquisite pleasure of seeing them turned into mice, to be wiped out on the spot. (Bruno meanwhile is contentedly munching away—to the horror of his mouse-hating parents.) When last seen, DaM and his grandmother are quietly resettled in Norway—where he wonders if she'll live out Ms short mouse-life span, and she's plotting to get rid of the world's remaining witches. A (quicker-acting) sequel is to be eagerly expected.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0374384576

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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MATILDA

After some autobiographical excursions, Dahl here returns to the sort of whimsically grotesque fantasy that makes grown-ups wince and children beg for more. His heroine is five-year-old Matilda, a genius whose mathematical abilities, as well as her impressive reading list (Hemingway, Steinbeck, etc.), are totally unappreciated by her father—a dishonest used-car salesman—and her mother, a devotee of bingo and TV soaps. Only when the girl enters school does she find an understanding ally, Miss Honey, a paragon of virtue who attempts to defend her pupils against unbelievably cruel headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who hates children in direct proportion to their youth and tortures them accordingly. Just when things seem to be at their worst, Matilda discovers still another gift, telekinesis, enabling her to defeat the horrible Trunchbull and give Miss Honey, and herself, a new start. Dahl's tightly woven plots, his strict sense of absolute justice, and his raunchy "funny bits" make him popular with children who also appreciate the empowerment he grants to his smaller, weaker protagonists. Matilda is the most simplistic of his efforts in this direction, but it does retain the time-honored appeal, abetted by Blake's apt illustrations. It probably should be marked "For Children Only," though. And Dahl slips badly when he says that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have no "funny bits" in their books.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0142410373

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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