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Witch's Boy, The Hardcover – March 29, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6-9–Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a woman who lived by herself in the middle of a great forest. Thus begins this literary fairy tale of a witch who takes into her home an ugly, abandoned infant whom she calls Lump. Wise in the ways of magic, the witch is inexpert in the ways of motherhood and so she appoints, in turn, a bear as his nursemaid and a djinni as his tutor. As predicted by her cat familiar, all does not go well and the witch is forced to give up her magic to save the boy. The adolescent Lump, far from being grateful for her sacrifice, becomes increasingly troublesome. Gruber incorporates well-known tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumplestiltskin into his narrative, giving readers a different, and sometimes more frightening, take on these childhood staples. The inclusion of these retellings and the elegance with which the author shapes his fable will appeal to readers who love to immerse themselves in the complex reworked fairy tales of Donna Jo Napoli. This is not a quick read, but it is an engrossing and enormously satisfying one.–Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. From the hypnotic mask on the cover to its perfect fairy-tale ending, this astonishing fantasy compels readers onward. Gruber, the author of several adult thrillers, has done much more than offer a well-structured adventure, full of mystery and magic--though he certainly does all that. He also plumbs the depths of the human heart and lays bare its emotions in a way that causes readers to respond instinctively. The story begins when a witch finds a baby so ugly that the note with it reads, "the devil's child for the devil's wife." The witch has no business with a child, but she fancies it, so she gets a bear to be its nanny and a hideous djinni to tutor it. Then she continues her life in service to her goddess. The more the witch underestimates parental responsibilities, the more hurt and angry the boy, Lump, becomes. Gruber cleverly weaves elements from familiar fairy tales into a saga that moves across forest, earth, and sea. But even more astute is his portrayal of the characters, especially Lump and his mother, who, locked in their own selfishness, must fight through disappointment, hatred, and anger to find forgiving love. This can be read at several levels, but those who plumb the deepest will reap the greatest reward. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 990L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060761644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060761646
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. I went to Columbia, earning a BA in English literature.. After college I did editorial work at various small magazines in New York, and then went back to school at City College and got the equivalent of a second BA, in biology. After that I went to the University of Miami and got a masters in marine biology. In 1968-69 I was in the U. S. Army as a medic.

In 1973, I received my Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. Then I was a chef at several Miami restaurants. Then I was a hippie traveling around in a bus and working as a roadie for various rock groups. Then I worked for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County, as an analyst. Then I was director of planning for the county department of human resources.

I went to Washington DC in 1977, and worked in the Carter White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Then I worked in the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy analyst and also as the speechwriter for the Administrator. In 1986, I was promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., the highest level of the federal civil service. That same year, Robert K. Tanenbaum contacted me and asked me to write a courtroom thriller to be published under his name. I did that, and since then I have also written the first fifteen novels in the popular Butch Karp and Marlene series.

In 1988 I left Washington, D.C. and settled in Seattle, where I worked as a speechwriter and environmental expert for the state land commissioner. I have been a full-time freelance writer since 1990, mostly on the Karp novels, but also doing non-fiction magazine pieces on biology. My first novel under my own name, TROPIC OF NIGHT, was published in 2003 (William Morrow) and a second novel, VALLEY OF BONES, as well as a children's book THE WITCH'S BOY (Harper Collins) came out in 2005. A third thriller for Morrow, NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR is due out in early 2006. I am married, with three grown children and an extremely large dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One lovely spring morning, a witch ventures out to collect her daily herbs. Much to her surprise, she finds a baby in a basket outside her door. But this is no ordinary baby; it is the ugliest child anyone has ever seen, and tied to its basket is a note: "the devil's child for the devil's wife." The witch is taken aback: "Witches are supposed to eat babies, not feed them," she says. But she surprises herself by feeling an odd fondness for the ugly child, who she names Lump, and she assembles a sort of family to help her care for the boy: a she-bear, a malevolent demon, and her familiar, a cat named Falance.

As Lump grows, he struggles to find his own magical powers and his relationship to the other humans nearby. In the meantime, his foster mother has the same problems as working mothers everywhere: how to balance her time between tending the Midsummer fires and caring for her child. The witch, who is more powerful than Lump understands, is mystified by motherhood. She thinks, "I have always known what to do; I see the Pattern clear as my own hand, and I follow it and am content. But there is no guide here, and every path I can see leads to some pain. Perhaps this is part of having a child; the Pattern is of no use, and there is this aching in my heart."

Soon enough, disaster strikes, and Lump, the witch, and Falance hit the road. Robbed of her powers when she makes the ultimate sacrifice for her child, the witch must find a new life for herself: "It is the case that I cannot be both a mother and a witch, or not the sort of witch I was." In the meantime, Lump grows more distant, demanding, and hard to love. Fashioning themselves as The Faeryland Outcasts, the three perform magic and meet dozens of characters who will be vaguely familiar to readers from other fairy tales.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This Fairy Tale not only describes its own story it also incorporates many other classic fairy tales from Little Red Riding Hood to Pinocchio, each one with an added twist. Lump is the witch's boy. Abandoned at birth and taken in by a misunderstood witch. He grows up in a world of magic. He is taught by an enslaved djin and nursed by a bear. He grows up with very wrong views about people and the world. Lump thinks he is handsome but truth be told he is not handsome at all. When he finds out and is made fun of and harassed he wishes everyone who had hurt him would burn. When Lumps actions with the humans turn horribly wrong the witch and the boy must flee the sacred woods they had once enjoyed.

Thus Lump is sent on a journey through many worlds and many places. After losing what he truly loves, he hides himself behind a mask of gold and surrounds himself with riches and blames everything on his mother. After abusing life he is cast from the world only to be given a second chance in which he finds himself and the people who truly love him.

Michael Gruber writes about very strong emotions and creates very strong characters. His book has many twists and turns and you never know what's around the next bend.

I would recommend this book. Although it is a bit slow in the beginning it begins to get more and more interesting, and slowly but surely it lures you in. My favorite part of this book is how he incorporated all the other fairy tales and gave them his own twist.
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Format: Hardcover
When a witch finds an exceptionally ugly baby left in a basket--accompanied by a note that reads "the devil's child for the devil's wife"--she takes him in against her better judgement. Raised by a witch, a bear, and a djinn, destined to become a fairy tale legend himself, Lump's story is one of love and the birth of wickedness. The Witch's Boy is one of the books you pick up to read for ten minutes, and then put down an hour later. Its constant sense of discovery and forward motion are what make it so compelling: The world that Gruber creates isn't wholly original, but it's sufficiently inventive and colorful that it always offers another secret to uncover--but never edges towards twee, which is good because that would do Lump's story no favors. Lump's story isn't the only one in The Witch's Boy (his mother in particular is fantastic, and it's the depth of her character--and thus her relationship with and impact on Lump--that brings the book to life), but it's a remarkably well-realized tale, a detailed, realistic, painfully honest story of personal corruption, and what it is that makes someone bad. It doesn't wallow in the fact, but this is a surprisingly dark book. It's rare to sympathize and dislike simultaneously and completely, and heartbreaking, and an admirable accomplishment.

But The Witch's Boy has its weaknesses. It's ostensibly a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but when it finally reaches recognizable aspects of that tale they're hurried and fairly plain. Lump's redemption, which ends the book, is likewise. Thankfully his isn't quite an instantaneous fix, but what makes the rest of the book remarkable is the well-paced, realistically rendered growth of Lump's character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charlie_in_la on September 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Having read another book by this author, I chose this. I was totally engaged by the world that he created.

The infant child adopted by a witch...raised by a bear...with the lovingkindness that we would all wish for for any child.

The characters that we meet...some are fairy tale find out the true story of Hansel and Gretl from their own mouths (certainly not the story we remember as children).

The love of a mother, the rebellion of a child, the greed of adults and the compassion of others. And, finally, well, that I will leave to the next reader of this book to savor.

The book is magical, entrancing.

I am happy that I read it.

I hope that you will be too.
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