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The Witches - Roald Dahl

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Roald Dahl / Paperback / 224 Pages / Book is published 2007-09-06 by Puffin Books

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      06.03.2012 09:14
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      A book which will be as much talked about for its controversy as read and enjoyed

      The Witches by Roald Dahl is a truly terrifying tale, which pushes the very boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in children's literature.

      It is these very qualities, amongst others, which have led to the novel being banned on a number of occasions, at the same time as securing its enduring appeal amongst readers young and old.

      The Witches follows a seven-year-old boy orphaned on the death of his parents who comes into the care of his Norwegian grandmother, a retired witchophile. Whilst holidaying in Bournemouth, the boy accidentally observes the Annual Meeting of the Witches in England and he is turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch. He manages to escape and enlists the help of his grandmother to stop the witches' evil plot to kill all the children in England, by essentially turning their plans back on themselves.

      What makes The Witches so terrifying is, it is plausible. Dahl does not set his story in a third dimension somewhere with two-headed monsters running around. It is set right here in the reader's world dealing with the every day. Dahl talks directly to the reader through the character of the grandmother, urging everyone to look out for the signs a woman could be a witch. He calls for them not to be fooled just because they are nice. That is their game. Look out for the gloved hands covering the taloned fingers, the uncomfortable shoes concealing the toe-less feet, the itchy bald heads disguised by wigs. Be wary, he entreats, of your own teachers, your own librarian, your own mothers.

      Children do not even have to trespass off onto unknown territory to find themselves in danger. The witches will come into reader's own streets, gardens and even homes. It is quite difficult for the reader to rationalise away what Dahl is talking about and children, with an ounce of imagination, are left with no other option than to believe that this could be true - witches could be living among us.

      Dahl has a propensity to go where other authors, particularly children's authors, are afraid to go. Never more is this clear than in The Witches. No character, good or bad, is safe from Dahl's slightly macabre nature. The boy whose story we follow, we find out has already experienced the terrible tragedy of his parents being killed in a car accident, even before he encounters the witches.

      With children's stories the reader generally expects a happy ending and a restoration of order. Dahl does not do this in The Witches. The boy narrator is never returned to his human form after being turned into a mouse.

      The Witches was banned several times in the 1990s. It was perceived as deeply sexist, portraying all women as witches. It devalued the life of a child and in America it met the wrath of witch societies who claimed The Witches treated the subject of witchcraft lightly.

      To understand many of Dahl's books, especially arguably the most controversial - The Witches - the reader must do away with the publisher's propaganda image of the kindly grandpa sitting writing in his shed. Dahl's editors had to continually ask him to modify his stories to make them more politically correct. He was a product of a different time and environment. He attended an English boarding school at the beginning of the 20th century where cultivating an appreciation for diversity was far from top of the agenda. Dahl also suffered incredible tragedies in his life. He experienced the death of a daughter, the traumatising injury to his son and his wife's debilitating strokes.

      English feminists have been up in arms at the sexism in The Witches. They used the quote, "But the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch" to support their argument. They did however overlook the following line, "On the other hand a ghoul is always a male".

      Dahl defended himself when confronted with these claims by pointing to the grandmother who is one of the major characters in the story. The narrator says, "The fact that I am still here and able to speak to you...is due entirely to my wonderful grandmother". Dahl said the criticisms of sexism were unfounded because of the courage and wisdom the grandmother displays.

      Children reading The Witches do not, however, pick up on the bad. They enjoy laughing at Dahl's jokes and like seeing adults look ridiculous. It is only as an adult, readers start to see Dahl's sexist, racist and anti-Semitic undertones.

      Dahl's main concern is always to entertain his readers. He does not concentrate on the fact some groups of people may be offended. This attitude is clear in The Witches and will ensure it has an enduring appeal amongst readers, particularly children, at the same time as continually raising the hackles of the most politically correct.

      It is a fantastically entertaining and terrifying read that will have all readers watching that bit closer women scratching their heads with gloved hands.

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        17.04.2011 17:42
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        Dahl waves his magic wand to create another classic...

        Roald Dahl has to be one of the greatest children's authors that Britain, if not the world has created. Born in Cardiff to Norwegian parents, he is the author of many famous books for children that I am sure most of you will know at least one title. But it was not until during the last eight to ten years that I read most of his works (to the children as they grew up). I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, I guess a lot of us do! But I had not discovered the joys of The Twits (which I have reviewed elsewhere), Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches.

        The boy in the story (who I don't think is actually named) has a grandma who is, or was, a witch hunter. When his parents are tragically killed in an accident, he goes to live with her and she tells him tales of various witches and how he should be able to spot a witch. They are completely bald, for one thing, and wear wigs. Their saliva is blue, and to them children smell of dogs droppings... and it is their aim to rid the world of all children.

        Whilst holidaying in Bournemouth, the boy buys two mice which he sets about training. He uses a great meeting room in the hotel where they are staying in which is empty, but as he is training the mice, people start to enter and sit down. He is behind a screen and hiding, as the manager of the hotel has told him to keep his mice out of sight or else. But he notices that the women, who are supposed to be from the RSPCC are quite strange... they all seem to be wearing wigs for one thing! He soon realises that they are witches and that it is the annual witches meeting and the Grand High Witch herself is there!

        He listens as she addresses her people and soon finds out that she is planning on wiping out all the children in England by turning them all into mice...

        He knows he has to do something to stop them, but then suddenly he is spotted by one of the witches...


        This is a great read. I have read it to both Borgeth and Borgette and they thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a long read for the younger child, though, and can be a little bit scary at times. The Grand High Witch herself is quite creepy. I don't want to give too much away as this will spoil the surprises, but we have classic Dahl here, writing with his tongue firmly in his cheek. We have the usual oddball character... the boy's gran is such a character, as she has a fondness for big cigars - but she is very loving as well.

        The artwork is by Quentin Blake and is excellent, just right for Roald Dahl's books. I have seen other books by Dahl that were illustrated by other artists and they just aren't the same.


        The Witches by Roald Dahl (13 September 1916 - 23 November 1990)

        Published by Puffin Books

        5.99

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          29.07.2010 12:39
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          splendid book

          I simply had to review this wonderful book as it has such a dear place in my heart. I was weaned on Roald Dahl, alongside Enid Blyton and it is still a pleasure to revisit his works. 'The Witches' is one of his defining moments, which conjures up magic, mystery and mayhem in only the way that Dahl knows how.

          The story follows the tale of a boy, who lives with his grandmother. An unassuming boy and a wily grandmother at that! The grandmother is full of wise old tales and tells the boy how to spot a real witch. Apparently real witches have no hair and no toes, quite a gruesome thought! And so the story unfolds, with the boy thinking he has spotted a witch outside his house one day...

          Events take the boy and his grandmother to an English country hotel. All quite innocent enough on the outside, but what are all the strange ladies doing gathering in the big hall for a convention? Could they be witches? The boy befriends another guest called Bruno and the two set out on a wild adventure to discover just who these odd women are and what is really going on. This results in a series of comedic and somewhat shocking episodes...

          Although 'The Witches' is a childrens book, there are Dahl's usual trademark twists of darkness. There is one part of the book that could give you nightmares, but if I reveal it, it could spoil the book. Younger children would be best to read this with an adult, whereas over eights will delight in getting their teeth into something creepy and meaty.

          The book is a substantial length and can be finished by kids in a week. It is easy to read and illustrated as always by Quentin Blake, who turns in a series of casual yet expressive drawings. The book should cost about five pounds from all leading bookstores, recommended bedtime fun.

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            27.07.2010 19:53
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            All children need to read some Roald Dahl

            The Witches is a brilliant book written by Roald Dahl for children. I read this when I was little and I absolutely LOVED it, even if I was a bit scared that there might be a witch living next door to me!

            This book has is Winner of The Whitbread Aboard, and the fact that it has won an award doesn't surprise me one bit as I really do think it is fantastic. In fact I am surprised it hasn't won more.

            The style of writing featured in this book is lively and engaging, it is perfect for children, because it is so lively and fun, and after reading every page you just want to read more. There are also exciting illustrations by Quentin Blake which really bring the words to life. As well as being fun this book is also wickedly scary - it will make you wonder if there are any witches living near you.

            The book is about just an ordinary boy. His grandmother tells him about witches, and how he can get away from them. She tells him about all the witches in the world, the meetings they have, and their Grand High Witch. She says nobody knows exactly who this terrible woman is, or where she comes from. But one day the boy and his grandmother find out for themselves, which isn't a nice thing to happen to them!

            I would definitely recommend this book for all children. It is really, really well written, in a lively style that is perfect for children. The characters are all really good, they are described so well in a way that makes you really get to know them. I also really liked the illustrations.

            The price on the back of the copy I have, which is published by Penguin, is £5.99. You can also buy a copy for £2.10 on amazon.

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              06.05.2010 21:39
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              Dahl at his best!

              Despite being quite a prolific reader as a child, the literary creations of the late, great Roald Dahl passed me by for the most part (with the notable exception of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) Recently, I have discovered just how fantastic an author Roald Dahl actually was, as my seven year old son and I have enjoyed sharing some of his classics, to the extent that I actually picked up a complete box set of his books for the bedtime slot.

              I had already seen the film version of Dahl's 'The Witches' as an adult so knew the basic premise of the story before reading this to my son but the film really doesn't do this book justice. The main character is just an ordinary seven year old boy who ends up living with his Norwegian grandmother after his parents' death. His Grandmother delights in sharing stories about witches but these are not the traditional witch stories complete with pointed hats, broomsticks and black cats. The witches in this story are just ordinary looking women, carrying out ordinary jobs in ordinary towns but with a determination to destroy any children that they come into contact with. Luckily, there are a few tell-tale warning signs to look out for which Grandmother points out to the boy, although he is not quite sure whether to believe her extraordinary sounding stories or not - that is, until the boy and her grandmother end up in a hotel in Bournemouth which also happens to be hosting a convention of real witches at the same time. The boy gets to face the realities of witches from very close quarters and has to try and outwit them with the aid of his quick wits and cigar-smoking Grandmother!

              This book is recommended for children aged seven upwards (and I can confirm that it is a treat for the adult reader, too!) I would say this is an accurate guideline, based on my own son's enjoyment of the story. When we first started reading the book, I was concerned that it might be a little bit too dark and disturbing for my son as he can be quite a sensitive little soul at times. Indeed, the opening chapter features the tragic death of the boys' parents in a car crash which I thought might trigger some anxiety (based on previous experiences when my son has started to imagine things such as this happening to his family.) Fortunately, he didn't bat an eyelid at this, as I think he was already engrossed in the story and far too interested in what was going to happen next. What did capture his imagination was Dahl's wicked sense of humour which just appeals completely to the humour of a seven year old boy. My oldest was particularly amused by the description of the smell of a child as being akin to 'dogs droppings.' He also liked the advice that children should only bath once a month at most!

              The book should be suitable for confident readers to read by themselves although the opening chapters are set in Norway and feature some very strange looking Norwegian names which could prove confusing for younger (or even much older) readers. (I can't say my own pronunciation would cut the mustard with any Norwegian speakers either!) I also found large sections of the book quite difficult to read aloud particularly when the rather sinister 'Grand High Witch' is talking as, being Scandinavian herself, she replaces 'W' with 'V' and also adds in extra 'rrrrr's to certain words. This helped with the authenticity when reading aloud but, again, might prove an additional complication and challenge for young readers.

              Interestingly, the boy in the story is never named throughout the entire book which I only realised when flicking through searching for his name to include in this review! The lack of a name doesn't seem to add or detract anything from the story and I wonder whether Dahl had any impact or intention in mind by failing to name him? I can't say my son noticed this omission either but it is unusual for the main character not to be named, particularly in a children's story.

              Like the rest of our box set, our Puffin paperback copy is brought dramatically to life not only by Dahl's command of the written word but by Quentin Blake's quirky and distinctive line drawings. These slightly angular illustrations help to reinforce the scary images of the witches that are already racing through our imagination and just add to the overall appeal of the story. I can wholeheartedly recommend this story for young readers and, despite the subject matter and Dahl's often macabre humour, it wasn't too scary or anxiety-provoking, it was just a thoroughly entertaining read.

              ISBN: 978-0141322643
              Copies available on Amazon from £1 (plus p&p)

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                24.11.2009 20:18
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                This is a great childs classic.

                I have been going through my childhood books and passing a great many of them on to my daughter. I recently came across this book and thought I would revisit my youth and read this. It was a very fast read and it really kept me on my toes bringing back some great memories of the first time I read it.

                This book is about a grandmother and her grandson. The grandson is orphaned leaving him the care of his grandmother. However there is a condition that they must live in the boys home so that he wont have to leave his friends behind. Reluctantly they move back to the boys home.

                Being a kind and loving grandmother she warns her grandson to be ware of witches and how to tell a normal woman from a witch. Witches all have claws that they hide with gloves, witches all have blue spit that leaves a blue tint on there teeth, witches do not have any toes just square feet, witches have no hair and must wear wigs.

                Shortly after arriving home he has a run in with a witch. He climbs as high as he can up into his tree and waits for her to go away. Eventually she does and his grandmother calls him in. He tells her what has happened and she goes off with a silent deep in thought look about her.

                There is a break in school that is coming up and they are planning a long extended trip when grandmother gets sick and there plans have to be adjusted. So they instead go to a nice hotel close to the beach where grandmother can rest and relax and regain her health. That's when it all starts to go wrong.

                I read this book years ago for the first time and loved it. I read it again as an adult and I love it even more. I feel that this is a great book and am very glad that I have it to pass on to my daughter.

                This book has been illustrated by Quentin Blake and there are cute little pictures through out the book that go with the story. It adds to the imagination for the child. My daughter loves this book and really enjoys the pictures as well as being able to form her own pictures in her mind about whats going on.

                Once again this is a great book and its one I can honestly pass down to my daughter with pride and knowing she is getting the chance to read a great author.

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                  18.06.2009 16:37
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                  .

                  I'm not at all embarrassed (OK maybe I am a bit) to say that this book scared the hell out of me when I first read it. And after all of these years there are some aspects of it which still make me feel a bit creeped out! Pathetic I know.

                  I think I've always been a fan of Roald Dahl, ever since I got Fantastic Mr Fox out a book club magazine (which is my favourite) I've been hooked. The Witches, despite my nervous tendencies towards it, is in second place.

                  The book starts out with a 'Note about witches' It warns us that spotting a witch is not as easy as you may think it is. Then we begin into the story of a small boy living with his Grandmother.

                  She is one for smoking a cigar, despite health problems, and telling her Grandson stories of monsters and even better-witches. Even though he doesn't initially believe her when she tells of children being trapped in pictures or being turned into chickens.

                  After a bath she tells him what a witch really looks like and how painful and uncomfortable it is for them. Always wears long gloves. Wears a wig so she has an itchy scalp. Larger than normal nostrils. Pupils which change colour. Blue spit and sore feet because they have no toes!

                  So just be careful who you leave your children with in the future!

                  When the Grandmother gets ill one day she is advised by her doctor to take a holiday, so packing up their belongings they head off to the Hotel Magnificent in Bournemouth.

                  It is here when the real adventure begins. Playing with his pet mice he loses control of one and finds himself inside a big meeting room trying to find him. Thinking nothing of the fact that the room is meant for an NSPCC group. Or are they?

                  It doesn't take him too long to notice that something isn't right when they bolt and lock the main door, or for that matter when they all start to scratch their heads. A lot.

                  Finding himself facing the Grand High Witch behind a huge screen, he realises that this is someone not to mess with. Especially when it turns out that her beautiful face is really a mask. Covering her demon-esq features.

                  Discovering their great plan to wipe out all the children of the world he is desperate to get away and inform his Grandmother however things do not go to plan.

                  Little boys give off an awful stench which the witches can smell whilst us mere mortals cannot. Hunting him out they transform him into a mouse but they are not quick enough to capture him and he escapes from their clutches.

                  The problem now is, he's the only one who can possibly prevent this disaster to occur. And having to let Bruno, a fat greedy child who also has been transformed into a small rodent, tag along doesn't make things any easier. He cannot allow himself to fail. After all, what would the world be like without children?!

                  The Witches is another classic from Roald Dahl. Going down a more sinister path involving magic and wickedness. It is a book which I could never be bored of. The characteristics of this book provides everything you need. Humour, adventure, a hero, magic, and a mother figure to top it all off.

                  Like all of his other stories this is an imaginative tale. On what we've always perceived a witch as being, he has spun it around and made them appear quite ordinary. No pointed hats, hooked noses or warts here.

                  The book is 208 pages long and has illustrations by Quentin Blake. This brings to life how grotesque and evil looking the Grand High Witch really is. I enjoy simply because it isn't often you get a purposely evil character in Roald Dahls books. Not ones that can do magic that is.

                  In typical Roald Dahl tradition he has opted for the child to be the one who saves the day, always the hero and the adults who are cruel. Roald Dahls stories are endless and I can't imagine a day when they will not be popular with new readers.

                  This is surely another one for the keeping and I really recommend that you own a copy. You can still get it in most shops, especially WHSmiths for £5-£6 or from amazon for £1.

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                    30.03.2008 11:42
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                    FIGHT AGAINST WITCHES LOL

                    Topic:
                    Name: Aniket Mehta (aniketmehta2003@hotmail.com)
                    Book: The Witches
                    Author: Roald Dahl
                    Pages: 202
                    "A real witch is easily the most dangerous of all the living creatures on earth." But, if real witches disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies rather than flying around on broomsticks in pointy hats, how can you tell when you're face to face with one? This book will first give you a note about witches.
                    This book is one of my favorite Roald Dahl books because of its use of every small child's nightmare, The Witches! The character grandma really is the most wonderful grandmother a child could ever wish for and more importantly she is very wise, specialist subject- The Witches.
                    "In fairy- tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks....REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS". The Witches" is the story of a little boy and his grandmother from Norway. At the age of 7, the boy loses his parents in a tragic car accident and he comes to be cared for by his grandmother. His grandmother teaches him everything about witches. Later on in the story they are staying at the same hotel as the witches. He is caught in a terrifying situation, and it seems there is no escape .After the grandson becomes a mouse he reaches his grand mom safely. Together they make a plan to turn the witches' potion against them by adding it to a soup reserved for the witches themselves. They all turn into mice almost instantly, the hotel staff panic. As the Grand High Witch predicted, and kills England's witches in their form of mice. Boy and his grandmother then create a plan by which to use the potion recipe the witches created to attack the Grand High Witch's Norwegian headquarters. The idea is that they can turn all of the witches into beige mice, and then place a number of cats into the headquarters. After doing that, they use the counterfeiting machine to pay all the expenses to travel around the world getting rid of all the witches they can find in the Planet Earth.
                    Accompanied by Quentin Blake's incredible drawings, Roald Dahl's The Witches is a brilliant read for children (and adults) of all ages.The way in which Roald Dahl tells the story creates a scary atmosphere, always relating to the reader, making them feel that maybe what she is saying is true in real life. 'The witches' is a fantastically frightful book that cannot fail to capture the imagination of both children and adults alike.

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                    16.02.2008 13:50
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                    a brilliant book

                    The story
                    =========

                    The witches goal is to get rid of all the children in england, the head witch comes up with a plan, the witches are going to buy all the sweet shops then put a magic potion into the chocolate which at 9 am the next day will turn all the children into mice, hopeing that the teachers at school will panic at the sight of mice and kill them.

                    Unfortunatley for them an old norwegian witch expert and her grandson only ever refered to as boy are staying at the same hotel as the witches.

                    Wholst training his pet mice boy sees the witches reveal there true identity so he stays hidden, them he sees them test there potion on bruno.

                    Shortly after the witches smell boy, children smell horrible to witches, they find him and give him such a high dose of the potion he turns into a mouse instantly.

                    Boy manages to get back to grandmas room and tells her what has happened, they hatch a plan together to put the witches own potion in the soup the witches are having for tea.

                    There plan works and all the witches turn into mice instantly.

                    To find out if the witches survive or if there intentions for humans to panic at the sight of mice and kill them works to there disadvantage you will have to read the book.


                    My oppinion
                    ==========

                    This book is great, when it was read to me as a child i found it quite scarey but loved it all the same, my daughters love this story to be read to them.

                    In the book grandma tells boy how to spot a witch and some of the characteristics of a witch are a sweet old lady who wears a wig, has pointy shoes, walks with a limp and wears gloves.
                    As you can imagine every old person my daughters meet now they want to know if it is a witch.

                    This book has also been made into a film which is equally as good,

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                      11.10.2006 20:00

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                      Not the best of his book but still better than others

                      This book is one of my favourite Roald Dahul books because of its use of every small child's nightmare, The Witches! The character grandma really is the most wonderful grandmother a child could ever wish for and more importantly she is very wise, specialist subject- The Witches. As a small child reading this book I often thought that the witches could be just a figment of Grandma's imgaination but this was not the case. The list of how to recognise a withch still lives in my mind today and I often find myself looking at a woman if she is wearing long gloves or scratching her head. Even though the storyline does slow down to the end of the book and even worse none of the children turned into mice by the witches are returned to their normal state the book holds magic in its very core and yes the witches are scary but grandma prevails !

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                      21.01.2005 21:32
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                      If there’s one thing I loved doing as a child it was reading. If there’s one author whose books I loved to read it was Roald Dahl. Born in 1916 to Norwegian parents, Dahl was to become one of the most iconic writers of children’s stories of our time. Dahl died in 1990 after a long list of literary achievements. Famed for “James and the Giant Peach”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” to name but a few of his books, “The Witches” won the Whitbread Award in 1983. On one rather dull evening in Oxford, I sat down to read it…

                      “In fairy- tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks….REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS”. Remember this, dear reader, as our story unfolds. “The Witches” is the story of a little boy and his grandmother from Norway. At the age of 7, the boy loses his parents in a tragic car accident and he comes to be cared for by his grandmother. Grandmamma sits in a chair and smokes cigars; she loves her grandson and is an expert on witches. Both Grandmamma and grandson love Norway but by the terms of the parent’s will, the boy must be educated in England. After a bath, one night, grandmamma proceeds to tell her grandson how to recognise a witch. Bald with long finger-nails and no toes, it appears that witches can detect children from their cleanliness. By default, by being dirty it is possible to avoid the sensory enhanced nostrils of the witch. This description comes in handy one day as the little boy finds himself in an encounter with a real, live witch at the bottom of the garden. By taking evasive action and clambering up a tree, the witch is eventually avoided but our hero soon realises that this is not the only witch around.

                      One day Grandmamma gets ill. After a scare, both are despatched to the Hotel Magnificent in Bournemouth on doctor’s orders for bracing sea air and recuperation. It’s here that our hero encounters what he thinks is a meeting of the NSPCC whilst chasing after his pet mice only to realise that he has stumbled upon a meeting of all the witches in England. Trapped at the back of the meeting room, he finds himself listening to the Grand High Witch and her dastardly plot to kill every child in the land. As little boys smell of poo to witches, he gets discovered, captured and turned into a mouse by The Grand High Witch. Despite this, he does escape and so the reader is left to ponder whether the evil witches’ dastardly plot can be scuppered or whether every child in England will fall victim to the glove and hat wearing evil conglomerate of witches.

                      The Witches is a spellbinding story and most unusual. Throughout, it is told from the perspective of the little boy in the first person although at no stage do we get to know either his name or his grandmother’s. Aimed predominantly at children, Dahl uses a simplistic approach in expression and story telling that simply adds to the charm and reels the reader in. His penchant for creating larger than life characters is typified through both the cigar puffing, geriatric Norwegian grandmother and the Angelica Huston-esque Grand High Witch who sounds like a throw back to the worst of German comic impressions from years gone by. Maybe even some might be offended by such mock imitation such as “So now I am having a plan! I am having a giganticus plan for getting rrid of every child in Inkland!” Of course, the fact that I interpret this as imitation German could be way off beam as at no time is any nationality referred to other than Norway featuring heavily so maybe I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion after all. If you have seen the movie “The Witches” with Angelica Huston, Rowan Atkinson et al then it’s hard not to imagine them playing the different roles. As to whether that’s good or bad will depend on whether you enjoyed the film, book, both or neither.

                      Dahl’s interpretation of what a witch would look like is both dark and humorous and so typically Dahl. Always bald with long fingernails, we soon come to discover that witches wear hats and gloves and our hero’s realisation that the meeting of the NSPCC is wholly attended by hat and glove wearing women is a triumph of timing and description. The ridiculously outlandish plot to kill the children is bizarre and surreal and one to savour when you encounter it in the book. It’s that aspect of dark humour that is so attractive about Dahl’s writing making him appeal to young and old alike. Whilst in the middle of the convention, one of the attendees dares to speak out against The Grand High Witch and is quickly reduced to a burnt crisp as we are re-assured that the Grand High Witch likes to fry at least one witch during a meeting to keep the others in line!

                      You can’t help but warm to the associations of Dahl’s mind as he comes up with the most adventurous of sequences, added to by the spoiled, gluttonous Bruno Jenkins who also ends up as a mouse although I seem to recall the ending of the movie being slightly happier than that in the book suggesting the usual artistic license on behalf of filmmakers.

                      The Witches is not a long book by any means and at 208 pages is rather short. Chapters are typically a dozen pages or so and it’s hard not to want to know what’s coming next. On reflection, I think it only took me just over a couple of hours to read but, of course, it reads so much better if you can read it to an attentive child. My paperback copy has illustrations throughout by the famous Quentin Blake that added to the effect. Having read so much Dahl as a child, I have the fondest memories of "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" and other stories that transported me into a world of fiction and make believe. Compared to other Dahl children’s stories, I wouldn’t rate “The Witches” as one of my favourites. This is simply because I prefer some of the other Dahl stories I've read. Compared to other mere mortals then the same book is a classical work that stands amongst the best of children’s books. How can I do anything else but strongly recommend that you take in a Dahl book like this from time to time or better still, make sure your children get to know the genius that was Roald Dahl?

                      Thanks for reading

                      Marandina

                      ISBN 0-14-031730-9
                      Published by Puffin books
                      RRP for this in the UK is £4.99 although a trip to Amazon will reveal used copies for 99p.


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                        20.04.2004 16:50
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                        Out of all the popular children?s authors I read, or was told to read at school, only Roald Dahl seemed to earn his popularity. His stories were imaginative, engaging, strange and often a little scary. Not being his best known work, although a 1990 film ensured it gained more recognition, ?The Witches? is often regarded as his most sinister tale. Naturally it was also my favourite. INTRODUCTION The book opens with a section entitled ?A Note About Witches.? An introduction rather than an opening chapter, this is an objective viewpoint on how to spot the terror of the book, the witch. In a departure from the easily recognisable pointed hats and cloaks, Dahl instructs the reader that witches do indeed exist, but are easily able to disguise themselves as regular women. The fear of a beast in the reader?s midst is amplified when Dahl voices their concerns, stating a number of possible familiar faces that may not be who they seem. There are several ways of telling whether someone is a witch, (they wear gloves, wigs and have blue teeth) but unfortunately these require the observer to be in close proximity and as such may be too late. The Witches? targets are, naturally, all children. All witches are evil. PLOT The story opens in the house of a boy?s grandmother in Oslo, Norway. She is telling her son what would appear to be a ghost story, if not for her clear sincerity. Echoing the introduction?s notes about witches, she relates the story of a girl who fell victim to a witch and became trapped in a painting. She would move position each day until she eventually vanished, unnoticed by her parents. On her trip to England, the grandmother and her grandson stay in a seaside Hotel, but the boy soon discovers the truth ab
                        out a group of women, under the guise of RSPCC representatives. They are a group of witches led by the Grand High Witch herself, and are in England to gather children. The Grand High Witch demonstrates a new sweet she has invented and a young boy, Bruno, arrives as per her instructions. On consuming the sweet he is changed into a mouse; the boy knows that his only hope is his grandmother, and they have to stop the Witches? plans as no one else will believe them. CHARACTERS The main character is an impressionable but confident and active child, as in most of Dahl?s books, and he narrates the story from that perspective. The grandmother represents safety in a world where no one else can really be trusted, or no women at least, and the Witches come across as very evil indeed. Another staple of Dahl?s books is modern-day, unimaginative adults whose humdrum lives have made them criticise everything. The boy?s parents do not even begin to listen to his claims of Witches. A CHILDREN?S BOOK? The Witches is a book for children, but not for all children. I have read accounts of children crying or being terrified and although I was less sensitive to such things as a child (and really loved having nightmares; I wish I still had them), I remember fearing for the boy?s safety throughout the book. The main passage that had an impact on me came near the start, with the child trapped in the painting; I remember finding this genuinely terrifying, being locked motionless in a painting and not being noticed by anyone until you simply cease to be. I tried reading it aloud to my younger brother at the time, but had to stop when I couldn?t force some of the words out! Terror in ch
                        ildren?s stories is nothing new or controversial. Ancient fairy stories and nursery rhymes are full of death and suffering, mostly used as lessons about what not to do, and the Witches is the child?s equivalent of horror films. I would not hesitate in recommending this to any child, teacher or parent as there is a real incentive to read through the book and find out what happens. And it?s not all pretty. THE FILM There was indeed a popular British film version of this book, released in 1990. I saw it once as a child, before I read the book, and found it to be a very good adaptation. The same scenes were scary and although the ending was less tragic (I?m not going to explain the differences here as it would spoil the enjoyment of any potential readers) it captured the essence of Dahl?s story very well. OVERALL If I had a Frankingstein Junior I would make sure it was approaching bedtime and read him/her chapters from this book. Children love to be scared, at least everyone that I knew did, and this book does that very tastefully. I would have enjoyed some feminist backlash against this book which essentially states that no women can really be trusted, but the whole reason for this is that mother figures represent safety and trust to children: if you can't trust Mrs Miggins at the corner shop, who can you trust? One of the best children?s books around, and certainly one of the undisputed best children?s authors.

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                          04.04.2002 22:48
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                          Roald Dahl's "The Witches" is a fantastically frightful book that cannot fail to capture the imagination of both children and adults alike. The story is about a young boy who is taken in to the care of his Grandmother when his parents are tragically killed in a car crash. In an attempt to take his mind off what has happened, his Grandmother tells him lots of stories, in particular, about witches. These stories happen to be true, and the young boy soon realises that witches are real. They are not your stereotypical witches with black capes, black pointed hats and broomsticks though. No, these witches look like ordinary women, and they are all around. Whilst on holiday in Bournemouth, the young boy discovers, to his horror, that witches are staying in the same hotel as himself and his Grandmother. He is caught in a terrifying situation, and it seems there is no escape.... Although this is a children's book, I have to admit that I really enjoyed reading it. The description of the witches is wonderfully grotesque, and I could imagine children questioning whether the neighbour next door is in fact, a witch. The story is scary, funny in places, interesting and imaginative from start to finish. The thought that a normal women could be a witch seems ridiculous at first, but Roald Dahl somehow manages to make it totally and utterly believeable.

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                            17.05.2001 23:53

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                            I loved this book when I was younger, and it is now one of my little sister’s favourites too. It is in my opinion the best of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, and he has written many fantastic ones. The book is about a 7-year-old orphan boy who is cared for by his Norwegian grandmother. He discovers the true nature of witches and then has the misfortune to be transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch of All the World - a horrifying creature with terrifyingly ugly face concealed behind the mask of a pretty young woman. In this book, witches are characterized as figures of horror - bald, claw-fingered, toeless women; their deformities hidden beneath pretty masks, fancy wigs, white gloves and pretty pointy shoes. The now mouse-turned boy and is grandmother decide to seek revenge on the witches and save the rest of the children in the world from meeting a similar fate. A child may be smaller than all the horrifying witches, but he can certainly outwit them. He is tiny and crushable, but he is also fast and almost invisible. With the assistance of his benevolent Grandmamma he is able to outsmart nearly the whole world of witches. It’s a fantastic book and I definitely recommend it, although some children might find it a bit frightening in parts.

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                            05.02.2001 03:30
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                            This is a book which my best friend couldn’t even look at and which scared the rest of my class witless in primary school. I wasn’t quite as affected as my friend but I could still feel the hushed atmosphere around me as I read it. “The Witches” was a book which demanded to be read with utmost seriousness and the tensions built up were the only things I was conscious of when I read them. Then there were the disgustingly emotive descriptions of the witches themselves. Dahl broke all the stereotypes of pointy hats, big noses and old hags. By telling us that witches could be anyone in disguise, any one at all, he sent shivers up our spines and made us really terrified of these creatures. The witches were a depiction of the worst possible traits in anyone all brought together and multiplied. This is why I think that they were so terrifying to so many children ( and probably some adults !). The basic plot is, I’m sure, familiar to most of you but in summary it is about a boy who discovers that witches are staying at the same hotel as him and his grandmother. He finds out that the witches have a terrible plan and, despite a minor setback ( namely being turned into a mouse by the head witch ) he decides it is up to him to stop them. It’s impossible not to empathise with the protagonist, who is curious yet always wary. As children it’s easy to get carried away with any adventure story and this one is no exception. It’s plot and characters - some detestable, some heroic - still captivate me years after reading it for the first time. Contrary to the belief of some, many of Roald Dahl’s books can only be described as children’s horror and this is no exception. So, perhaps this is not such a good book for the very young or easily affected to read. For the majority of people though, it’s a book that just had to be read.

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                            This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches. So begins one of Roald Dahl's best books ever, and, ironically, it is such a great story because the premise is perfectly plausible from the outset. When the narrator's parents die in a car crash on page two (contrast this terribly real demise with that of James's parents who are devoured by an escaped rhinoceros in James and the Giant Peach), he is taken in by his cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother, who has learned a storyteller's respect for witches and is wise to their ways. The bond between the boy and his grandmother becomes the centrepiece of the tale--a partnership of love and understanding that survives even the boy's unfortunate transformation into a mouse. And once the two have teamed up to outwitch the witches, the boy's declaration that he's glad he's a mouse because he will now live only as long as his grandmother is far more poignant than eerie.