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The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children (Texas Bluebonnet Books (Paperback)) Paperback – July 19, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Fans of Lemony Snicket's bestselling 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' should love Keith McGowan's beguiling debut... The moral: Good scientific research beats a ruthless witch." --USA Today

"Young readers will particularly love the way McGowan moves back and forth between a narrative following Sol and Connie and a spine tingling journal kept by their odd neighbor, Fay Holaderry." --Seattle Times

"Nuanced, fascinating, and gratifyingly dark... Sol and Connie are appealing in their individuality and in their at times prickly sibling relationship." --The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

"McGowan makes a strong debut... The story relies on Sol's intelligence, scientific acuity, and talent for research as well as Connie's subtle cunning... especially accessible and appealing for thrill-seeking readers." --Publisher's Weekly

"Humor that will delight and challenge the inquisitive youngster... It's also a sweet book, full of moments of sibling solidarity." --The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 710 (What's this?)
  • Series: Texas Bluebonnet Books (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312674864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312674861
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,643,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book! For those of you who like the story of Hansel and Gretel, you will love this new spin on it.
The witch, Fay Holaderry has adapted her lifestyle to the present time, living like any elderly person in any community. But, looks can be deceiving.

Sol and Connie Blink have just moved to Grand Creek. They have a lovely set of parents who don't really seem to care about them. The reasons, and there are many, become clear as you read the book. Sol is a science nerd. His younger sister Connie loves animals and loves and admires her brother. Sol has a difficult time believing in himself after a terrible incident in the town they have just moved from.

Both Sol and Connie must learn to trust each other if they are to survive what their parents, Ms. Holaderry and many others in the town have set up for them. This story's themes of perseverance, trust and relying on family run all through this story. I can't wait for the first day of school to begin so that I can recommend this book to my new students.
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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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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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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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By M. Lee on November 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a mother who screens everything her 11-year-old daughter reads, I was more than drawn toward this book's very arresting title: I did a double-take. Said daughter has a huge library of books about friendly witches and I certainly thought it was about time she about those witches that may look pleasant enough, but still give you an uncomfortable feeling in your gut, like the ones *I* grew up with! Although fractured fairy tales are generally not my favourite genre, I appreciate their popularity - many are very well-written and thoroughly enjoyable ("The Sisters Grimm" series comes now to mind), even if I personally prefer original tales. "The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children" by Keith McGowan is definitely a keeper! Unlike said daughter, what interested me most was the characterisation of the little dog in the story: it begs the question "Do our unthinking loyalties lie with those who feed us?" This book is deceptively simple, like the old fairytales, but opens the door to many animated dinner-table discussions. In the words of said daughter:

"The book, 'The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children' by Keith McGowan was bewitching.

"When Solomon and Constance Blink-Sol and Connie for short- move to Grand Creek, one of the first people to welcome them is an odd old woman, Fay Holaderry, and her friendly dog, J. Swift, who carries a strange bone in his mouth. A human femur, to be exact. Then, Sol and Connie's new stepmother and father leave them in a strange town. Sound familiar? This modern re-telling of the famous 'Hansel and Gretel' story will have you laughing your socks off!
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