Christa, Klaas and Thomas have concluded that their portly, grey-haired neighbor is a witch.
They yell nasty comments and draw an arrow pointing toward her door with that very label so others are forewarned. Encountering a regular visitor, they ask the girl: “Did the witch put a spell on you so that now you have to visit her all the time?” Van Mol’s language and characterizations ring true. Despite the child’s explanation that Meena is her grandma, the friends watch in horror as the woman empties a bucket of red liquid into the gutter. A key dangles from her stained apron; tiny legs poke out of her pocket. When accentuating a character or object, Wijffels employs painted and cut paper, cheerful buttons, thread and other media in layered, compositions; the supporting roles are rendered in single-color outlines. The white backgrounds offer a pleasing foil for the emotionally-charged images: the bubbling red liquid (later revealed to be cherry-pie filling), the looming, forest-green shadow of apprehension as Thomas prepares to deliver the climactic message. The endpapers depicting a sidewalk portrait of “Grandma Meena” (and her pie) follow an episode in which the children face and overcome their fear, although, realistically, not all at once.
This Belgian import offers a provocative look at the trajectory between snap judgments and hateful behavior—when both are fueled by fear. (Picture book. 4-7)