Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Witches by Roald Dahl

"My orders are that every single child in this country shall be rrrubbed out, sqvashed, sqvirted, sqvittered and frrrittered before I come here again in vun year's time! Do I make myself clear?"

The Grand High Witch has a fiendish plan for getting rid of all the children in England. First, her fellow hags will take over all the sweet shops. Next, they will sell poisoned sweets and chocolates which turn children into mice! Then, make way for the mouse traps...

This terrible plan is overheard by the young boy narrator of the story. Fortunately, his grandma knows something about witches. Unfortunately, before he has a chance to consult her, he is turned into a mouse himself.

Will the witches triumph? Are the children of England doomed? And what exactly is the secret behind grandma’s missing finger? This award-winning tale has all the answers.

In September I did a post with Bella from A Girl Reads about Roald Dahl. As I was answering her questions, though, I was finding that I really couldn't remember exactly which Dahl books I have read over the years. There were some I still owned, so they came to mind, but I was sure there were probably times where I read him from the library and don't really remember anymore. With this in mind I decided to start reading him through the library. I decided to start with The Witches for the R.I.P. challenge. When I noticed that this book was also heavily challenged according to this list;I decided that by reading it I was killing three birds with one stone.

It turns out that I had read this book when I was a child. It took me a bit to get into it, but when I did I started to remember reading what was happening before. It was not fresh in my memory, but it was fun to reread it. It is a story about a young boy who is told by his grandmother that there are really witches in the world and his adventures as a result. There was a strong paranormal element, so the book worked well for the R.I.P. challenge. Reading a description of the witches was actually rather amusing. These are not the witches you are used to encountering in literature and movies! Dahl is very gifted at writing books that have a dark element to them, but also can make you laugh. It is a good mix.

What I really want to talk about is the fact that this book has been challenged. This is a dark book and bad things do happen in it. It makes me think about the J.K. Rowling interview I saw on Oprah today. She was talking about 9/11 and how people say that children shouldn't learn about evil in school. I assume this is related to the dark nature of her books. I am not a big Rowling fan, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what she represents. She was entirely right, though. There is evil in the world and many of the books that are challenged each year have a darker nature to them. I understand that parents want to try and protect their children from the bad things that can happen, but are they really doing them any good? I am a strong advocate of truth and balance. It always makes me sad when people attempt to ban books. I read authors like Dahl when I was a child and I'd like to think I turned out fine from it!

So, what do you think about book banning?


  1. This infuriates me. I thought only the Vatican did this. And others before who were burning books. Truth and balance is the right thing, as you said. We need to tell children everything but with other words, that is all. People who want to ban books mostly have double moral standards.
    I haven't read any Dahl since I read Kiss Kiss. The one you reviewed sounds quite enjoyable.
    I looked at this challenge and banning site... I am still shocked. I don't think such a thing exists in Switzerland. Maybe I am wrong.

  2. I'm against banning books. So silly. Some of the best books were banned at one point.

    I havent read this one, but I do remember liking the movie when I saw it.

    Great post!

  3. I can understand where parents might be upset about a child reading a certain book, but I don't think the solution is to ban it. Every book has something to offer someone, and I think children can only grow wiser and more well-rounded through reading. If parents or teachers are concerned about a child reading a particular book, then they should be available to help the child and guide him or her through the book. I don't think we're doing kids any favor by keeping them away from "darker" books! I, too, devoured Dahl as a kid, and I think my imagination absolutely benefitted from it!

  4. I have absolutely no problem with parents' saying what their kids can and can't read (though, of course, some parents are more reasonable than others), but it's ridiculous for them to try and control what anyone else's children can read. Also, The Witches is harmless. You know, dead scary, but it's not going to make children turn to the occult or anything.

  5. Caroline: I would like to think that there are places where book banning does not exist. If Switzerland is one such place than that is great!

    naida: I know! It is pretty silly, huh?

    Erin: I know. I read a lot of things that worked well for my imagination and now fantasy is my favourite genre. If I was told I couldn't read a lot of those authors as a child I would be an entirely different person now!

    Jenny: I was raised by parents that were not readers and did not pay the slightest bit of attention to what I read. They were quick to tell us what we couldn't watch, but for whatever reason they trusted my book selections. Considering I actually skipped young adult books and went straight to adult for a few years this was a big deal looking back...

  6. I did a bit of research and indeed, there is no such thing as banned books in Switzerland. Of course a school library could exclude certain books but there are no official lists or any law to ban anything. Switzerland is super liberal. Maybe I should be glad to be living in Switzerland after all.

  7. I shake my head when I find out that books are being banned or challenged. It's one thing to tell your child not to read a certain book but to decide that every child at school or a library shouldn't either is ridiculous. There is so much that goes on in society that children need to be aware of if we're going to even attempt to keep them safe. Ignorance is not bliss.

  8. I do think we do a disservice to our children by presenting the world as a happy joy joy place all the time. There are bad things and bad people. As a parent, I think I have to prepare my child for the realities of the world ... in an appropriate way and in a way that doesn't scare him to pieces. Books like this are a good way to start teaching that lesson.

    Dahl does have a dark side ... and I, for one, enjoy it tremendously. What a wonderful RIP pick.

  9. This is one of my favorite Dahl books. Some books are banned in Malaysia too.

  10. Ha! You make a great point about having read Dahl as a kid and turning out fine. Same here. I think kids aren't given enough freedom to make their own choices these days--too much protection.

    I haven't read this one, but I do remember the movie. I enjoyed others of his books and would love to read them again now that I'm older!

  11. I'm not in favor of banning books. Of course I believe parents should try to make sure their kids read age-appropriate stuff (and that can vary from child to child), but for a government or school district to make that decision for us?

    Would you believe I've never read a Roald Dahl book??! I know, I know...I'm missing out!


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