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The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805086684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805086683
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,898,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—A modernized version of Hansel and Gretel, with a few creepy, cannibalistic references. Sol, 11, and Connie, 8, move to Schoneberg with the man they believe is their father (he is their father's twin) and their stepmother. The children soon discover that the neighbor's pet dog has a habit of digging up human bones, and that "Dad" has a great motive for wanting them gone. The story alternates between the siblings' dawning understanding that nothing in the town is as it seems and the journal of their neighbor, a witch, in which she reminisces fondly about her past meals, including a Silence of the Lambs moment in which she enjoys one child "cooked with capsicum and washed down with a fine mead." Highly stylized illustrations do much to enhance the story. Readers of Dan Greenburg's "Secrets of Dripping Fang" series (Harcourt) may enjoy this tale. Readers of Donna Jo Napoli's The Magic Circle (Puffin, 1995), a more psychological Hansel and Gretel variant told from the witch's point of view, will find this is a very different retelling.—Kathleen Meulen Ellison, Sakai Intermediate School, Bainbridge Island, WA END

Review

"This book, one of this year's Texas Bluebonnet Award selections, retells Hansel and Gretel with a sly, dark Lemony Snicket twist." --Gift Guide, Dallas News

“Fans of Lemony Snicket’s best-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events should love Keith McGowan’s beguiling debut, a modern version of the Grimm Brothers’ chilling tale of Hansel and Gretel.” —USA Today

“A semisweet literary treat for the kiddies . . .  Keith McGowan’s re-telling of Hansel and Gretel’s misadventures, “The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children,” retains the disturbing vibe of the original, but spices it up with some seriously cerebral humor that will delight and challenge the inquisitive youngster.” —The New Yorker, “Book Bench” section

“Oooooh. That witch from Hansel and Gretel is back and she very well may be living right…next…door. In a conspiracy of lunacy, a whole town seems to be in cahoots with chaos to get those two little urchins to succumb to being the entree on the witch’s table. This updated book is still deliciously naughty.”—Kiwi magazine

“McGowan makes a strong debut. . . Shades of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket hover over McGowan’s tale, but up-to-date touches . . . make it especially accessible and appealing for thrill-seeking readers.” —Publishers Weekly

“Evoking Roald Dahl’s The Witches, McGowan’s edgy debut novel incorporates magic, clever references to the original tale, a cast of diverse characters, and Snicket-esque narration. The witch’s interspersed journal entries, including the opening chapter, ‘How to Cook and Eat Children: A Cautionary Tale by the Witch Fay Holaderry,’ breezily, and ominously, set the book’s dark tone. Periodic shadowy illustrations add unsettling eeriness to this open-ended story that will likely draw fans of shivery, suspenseful mysteries.”—Booklist

“Readers know what’s in store for Sol and Connie right from the riveting opening line. . . . Tanaka’s occasional full-page views of grim, heavy-lidded figures add a suitably gothic tone. Yum.” —Kirkus Reviews

“McGowan’s modern retelling of the Hansel and Gretel plot is nuanced, fascinating, and gratifyingly dark without being graphic or horrific.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"A modernized version of Hansel and Gretel . . . Highly stylized illustrations  . . . enhance the story.”—School Library Journal

More About the Author

Keith McGowan was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Great Neck on Long Island. He worked in education and for non-profits before turning to writing fiction for children. He lives with his wife, who is Austrian, in Vienna. His website is Keithbooks.com.


Customer Reviews

I do love a good children's book, but children will love it too!
Glenda Boozer
I did think the story was a little bit choppy and it didn't flow well in some parts but I don't think younger readers would notice or mind that at all.
Monie Garcia
Anyway, my daughter loved the book, took it on car rides to read just so she could see what happened.
Jadecat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By PCG VINE VOICE on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My 10 year old daughter and I both read this book. Being fans of Roald Dahl's "The Witches," we couldn't wait to find out what happens to the children in "The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children." We weren't disappointed. The children must out-think the witch, who is appropriately nasty, deal with mean and rather dull parents, and use their personal strengths to escape from the witch's cauldron. I found the witch's diary entries hysterically funny, as did my daughter. This would be a fun book for an elementary-aged child to read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By GamerGrl1974 on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this all the way through and really enjoyed it. It has a certain Hansel and Gretel element to it. I was great about a brother and sister who try to figure out a mystery to their next door neighbor the fact she could be a witch. This story takes Sol and Connie the two main characters on many adventures mystery solving. You will be suprized as this book has lots of twists and curves in it. I enjoyed it and could read it a couple times over it's that good
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sukak Mitparm on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is visually sophisticated. The illustrations are wonderful, and the care put to the cover and page layout are exquisite. But, we don't buy books just to look at them, right? We also (theoretically) read them. Here, the Witches' Guide also shines. The story rejects plot cliches and uses humor to raise weighty issues about parents, forgiveness, and friendship. I particularly liked the positive way science is portrayed. Science is not mystified, but instead is shown to be a fun, creative thing kids can do. Librarians should get this book on the shelf. McGowan is a lively writer, and I look forward to more books to come.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A friend gave me a copy of this book. I had it sitting on the table, where my son (9 years old) found it and read it cover to cover in one afternoon and evening; I picked it up and read it that night. I recommend it both as an engaging read for kids, and as an interesting rethinking -- with modern motives -- of a classic fairy tale.

The premise -- a modern update of Hansel and Gretel, is told both from the witch's point of view, and from the point of view of the two would be victims.

I found that the opening diary entries from the which drew me right in. They go over the witch's "favourite recipies", and also explain the reasons parents decided to get rid of their kids: for in this version of the story, the witch is a service provider to get rid of unwanted kids.

This portrayal of the witches motives -- in the "banality of evil" vein -- is perhaps the author's most interesting novelty in this retelling of the story. Although it might disappoint readers who are looking for a manichaean struggle between GOOD and EVIL in their fairy tales, both my son and I found this refreshing. It gives the an interesting calm to the book, and allows the author to develop the interplay between the two children and the counterpoint between them and the witch.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mel on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We bought the book together, then we read it together while my niece was in the hospital for a week. We loved it. We took turns reading it. Then we would discuss. What are the answers to the riddles? What is going to happen next?

I loved the witches entries. The character would be a lovely-wicked character to play in a haunted forest or house.

Now we just need to get book number two, because there were so many questions left unanswered.

The whole family is riveted to amazon.com for the next entry in the story.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jadecat VINE VOICE on July 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hansel & Gretel has always been an odd fairy tale, telling kids their parents don't want them and will give them away to a witch who will cook them. Well, this book brings that story to modern days with more depth. You cannot read this book without appreciating the absurd and far fetched things in life. Otherwise, you won't find it enjoyable. In this book, the witch has collection boxes set out in the city to collect unwanted children just as we have boxes to collect unwanted clothing. I had to chuckle at the mental picture that part of the story gave me.

My [...] year old picked up this book first and read the first chapter out loud in the car. Small warning bells rang out in my head as the witch described her dietary and culinary habits of cooking children. I knew then that there would be those readers who would be horrified at such thoughts and would think the book pure evil. But as my daughter continued reading, you could feel the lightheartedness in the book and we found it amusing. As with Hansel & Gretel, it wasn't always the witch who was the only evil one, the parents who no longer wanted their kids played a part also. In some ways this book had the feeling of being one of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Dark, but humorous also. The witch does talk about obtaining children in her brief memoirs, but during the story there are no actual descriptions of child nappings or cooking of darling kiddies, so there aren't really gruesome details included. It is mainly the story of how 2 kids, Sol & Connie discover who their strange neighbor is and how they foil her plans for them. Anyway, my daughter loved the book, took it on car rides to read just so she could see what happened. While reading it she said "People will love this book when it comes out".
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