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The Widow's Broom Hardcover – September 28, 1992

4.9 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Witches' brooms don't last forever. They grow old, and even the best of them, one day, lose the power of flight.... On very rare occasions, however, a broom can lose its power without warning, and fall, with its passenger, to the earth below ... which is just what happened one cold autumn night many years ago." So begins The Widow's Broom, the gentle, strangely captivating book by Chris Van Allsburg, who received Caldecott medals for Jumanji and The Polar Express.

The story gets under way when the lonely widow Minna Shaw finds a wounded, sky-fallen witch in her vegetable garden. The witch disappears before dawn, but leaves her old, presumably defunct broom behind. Minna begins to use it around the house and finds that "it was no better or worse than brooms she'd used before." However, one morning, Minna sees the broom sweeping by itself! Opportunistically, she trains it to chop wood and fetch water.

When the neighbors find out about this "wicked, wicked thing" (posing as an innocent, hardworking broom), they accost the widow and demand that the broom be burned. Are they successful in separating the lonely widow and her diligently sweeping friend? This is a wonderfully suspenseful book to read aloud and young listeners will earnestly hope for the broom's survival. Still, older, wiser readers, ages 8 and older, will be swept up in the story, too.

From Publishers Weekly

When Minna Shaw comes into possession of a witch's broom, it is as if good fortune itself has dropped from the sky. The broom sweeps on its own and does other chores; it can even pick out simple tunes on the piano. The widow's ignorant neighbors hate and torment the implement, though, fearing what they cannot understand; but in the end the widow and her broom triumph. This resonant tale, one of its gifted author/illustrator's most impressive efforts, effectively draws on mystery and whimsy alike--both human nature and the supernatural are powerful forces here. Van Allsburg's grainy, sepiatone illustrations variously evoke brooding, suspicion, grandeur, humor and serenity. Many individual pictures are haunting--amid a tangle of squash vines, for example, lies the fallen witch, with only one of her hands visible--and in composite they reverberate powerfully indeed. The narrative's subtle conclusion will evoke pleasurable shudders, as readers (gradually, perhaps) become aware of what has transpired. Both visually and narratively, a provocative and altogether satisfying work. All ages.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Library Binding edition (September 28, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395640512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395640517
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.5 x 13.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Witches' brooms don't last forever. One day while the Widow Minna Shaw is out in her garden just such a witch's broom finally runs out of flying power and the witch plummets to the ground and lies injured in Minna's garden. Without a second thought the kindly Minna brings the witch inside and after tucking her into a quiet place allows her to rest comfortably while the witch heals herself. After the witch has recovered and magically summoned a ride home, Minna discovers that she has left the old broom behind. It may not have much in the way of flying power any more but it turns out to have quite a bit of spunk left in it! Nosey neighbors automatically assume that because it is magical it must be evil and they set out to destroy it. Chris Van Allsburg is in peak form in this wonderful book. His writing is so mysterious and evocative yet filled with his characteristic wry humor. The story is sweetly spooky with just the right hint of shadow and a generous sprinkling of mischief. The illustrations are absolutely perfect. The familiar style of almost sepia toned illustrations are filled with exquisite details and wonderful expressions and activity. The meddlesome neighbors have a Salem flavor to them while the witch seems mysterious and magical. Minna is delightfully understated and open to the changes. We are treated to a fun-filled Van Allsburg plot change-up at the end. Don't miss this one. It's great for Halloween or any time. I think it's his best.
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Format: Hardcover
I am 23 and plan to teach at the secondary level, but when we read this book in one of my education classes I knew I had to share it. I bought it, went to a first grade classroom and they were hooked. Many wanted to hear it again, others wanted to get a copy for themselves, still others just wanted to look at the magnificent pictures again. It is a fabulous book and a wonderful story!
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Format: Hardcover
Fabulous illustration aside, this wonderful story offers a new take on the "sweet little old lady". When her community begins to bully her about her helpful broom, she solves her problem in a fashion that would put the fox to shame. Every fanciful child should have this book read-aloud to them enthusiastically and often!
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Format: Hardcover
Chris Van Allsburg's brilliant picture book is not just for wee tots. I would reccomend using this charming tale in a junior high school classroom to stir thoughts in the minds of students of how something that is called "wicked" is not necessarily so -- perhaps it's just a thing that is grievously misunderstood. Great to introduce a longer piece of literature based on the same general topic that things aren't always what they seem, or perhaps to teach about prejudice.
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Format: Hardcover
I did indeed love this one. The art work, per usual, for this author, was absolutely perfect. It is the type of work that can appeal to children as well as adults (I'm well into my sixties, and I enjoyed it...of course I have a lot of little boy in me still). As to the narrative, I did feel this was one of the author's better works. Allsburg is certainly a teller of good stories. I have observed this work being read to the children at our local library and it is one of their favorites. Again, the art work is almost magical, quite detailed and rather amazing to view. Recommend this one highly.
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Format: Hardcover
Chris Van Alsburg is widely known as an excellent story-teller and this book is no disapointment. He weaves a fascinating, sweet'n'sour tale of a widow and the witch's broom that she holds so dearly to her heart. Moving and craftily written, I suggest this book for anyone who wishes to read a good old fashioned tale of friendship.
I would not reccomend this book for children under 6 years. Though it has a happy ending, it does have some darker themes that would be inappropriate to present to young children if only for the reason that they wouldn't understand them.
Regardless, an excellent book if you are in the market for one. Happy reading! -Lia
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Format: Hardcover
The Widow's Broom is a fabulous tale of magic, witchcraft and conpanionship. The story focuses on a lonely widow named Minna Shaw whose brief encounter with a witch leaves her with a seemingly ordinary household broom. Minna soon comes to learn that the broom is anything but ordinary as it is enchanted. Trouble soon finds Minna Shaw in the form of her neighbors the Spivey's who denounce the broom as "evil." The events that follow are immensely entertaining and captivating. The twist ending makes the story all the sweeter. Van Allsburg's illustrations are nothing short of breathtaking as he deserved another Caldecott medal for his work here. Overall, kids will fall in love with this enchanting tale and adults may who read it may do the same. Highly Recommended for ALL ages.
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Format: Hardcover
I teach second grade and my class just loved this book. Chris Van Allsburg is one of our favorite authors but this is one of his best!!
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