The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Nine stars

What is a witch? After my last book, all about the Salem Witch Trials, I have a pretty good idea about what the Puritans thought. However, it would serve me well to allow Roald Dahl to present an answer to that for his childhood readers. According to Dahl, a witch has claw-like fingers (always gloved), remains bald (but wears a wig), and has squared feet (no toes and a horror when shopping for shoes!). But, the most important piece of knowledge about witches is that they DESPISE children more than anything. From there, in a sort of faux memoir about his youth, Dahl recounts losing his parents in an automobile crash and living with a Norwegian grandmother. She, of course, knows much more about witches and counsels him about them, since Norway has had witches for centuries. While on holiday, young Dahl and his grandmother are in a hotel and stumble across a gathering of all English witches, who are meeting under the guise of a fairly popular and heart-warming organisation. What happens next will test young Dahl’s ability to remember all the traits and actions witches undertake, as well as a conspiracy that the Grand High Witch of the World has for all the children. A delightful book to pique the curiosity of the young reader without any trials, tortures, or tribulations. Salem or the quaint English seaside, witches are all over and Dahl finally helps us identify them. Do YOU know a witch in your daily life?

Dahl’s magical way of presenting things to children is highly entertaining and allows me, a full-fledged adult reader, to tackle an enjoyable and short piece. Intentionally bordering on the silly, Dahl offers his readers some background before setting sail on a reading voyage that will both educate and entertain. His personalising the story pulls the reader in a little more and, even faced with adversity, Dahl does not push things to the edge of despair. I have always liked Dahl stories in my youth and see now just how uplifting I feel. I hope that in a few years, when my son is ready for something a little more dense, we might explore the world of witches and all they have to offer.

Kudos, Mr. Dahl for another winner. Children have a goldmine of reading when they discover all that you had in your mind and put to paper.