THE WITCHES by Quentin Blake

THE WITCHES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

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. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0374384576
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983




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