The Memory Thief: Thirteen Witches, Book 1
By Mary Eisenhart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Ghostly series start celebrates friends, storytelling.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Memory Thief is loosely set in our world, but steeped in a cosmology far removed from most of our daily experience. Frequent references to classic kids' books, including Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Harry Potter, as well as Anne Frank's diary. References to old-time music like "The Anniversary Waltz."
Strong messages of courage, friendship, family, empathy, coping -- and finding out what's real and what's not in relationships as people develop and change. The transformative power of storytelling is a strong theme: "Maybe stories make us stronger because they make a bridge to things we've lost. Maybe stories make powerful things out of broken ones."
Positive Role Models
Rosie has been fending for herself practically from birth due to her mom's distant behavior (caused by the Memory Thief stealing her memories). A gifted storyteller, she's strong, determined, forceful, and more terrified of losing her best friend than by the prospect of mortal combat with witches. Her best friend Germ is a steadying influence and reality check -- who's suddenly developed a lot of interests that don't seem to include Rosie now that they're 11, but remains a true friend. A ghost boy, Ebb, offers support and wise counsel. In the years before Rosie's birth, Rosie's mom was a loving wife to her now-dead husband, and also a courageous witch hunter.
Violence & Scariness
Rosie comes from a long line of witch slayers and takes on the task of killing the one who's destroyed her mom's memory. Many of her ancestors have been killed by witches. Witches kill and inflict suffering on their victims with assorted curses. Ghosts, from the distant to the recent, are everywhere; many are creepy-looking, some of them are kind, some are evil, some just trying to get Beyond. Some have died of natural causes, others by violence or injustice -- a man was hanged for murder even though he didn't kill anyone but allowed them to perish in a storm. A cosmic battle between the Moon Goddess and the 13 witches threatens to destroy everything good in the world. A mother lets witches carry off one of her newborn twins, probably to a horrible death, to save the other.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rosie's BFF Germ is suddenly boy-crazy, which drives Rosie nuts. Mostly it's about thinking every boy she sees (ghost or otherwise) is cute.
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Products & Purchases
Scene-setting mentions of real-world products, like the fact that Rosie and Germ seem to live on Twizzlers and peanut M&Ms in times of crisis. A Harry Potter flashlight proves a potent magical weapon.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Memory Thief is the first book in a planned Thirteen Witches trilogy by Jodi Lynne Anderson. Its 11-year-old narrator, Rosie, is strong-willed, determined, a gifted storyteller, and a survivor -- her mom goes through life in a fog, leaving Rosie to write herself encouraging notes and be her own emotional support. As it turns out, her mom is that way because her memory has been wiped by a witch in revenge for her success as the latest in a long line of witch hunters. Because, as it turns out, underlying the world we know, and about to destroy it, is a cosmic conflict pitting the benign Moon Goddess against 13 witches determined to destroy everything good, loving, and positive in the world. Most of the characters along the way are ghosts who, for one reason or another, remain in the seaside Maine town where the story takes place. Some are creepy looking, some have horrific back stories, some are evil, while others are kind, helpful, and on Rosie's side. As these dramatic revelations unfold, and Rosie resolves to kill the witch who cursed her mom to restore her memory, she's also dealing with a more everyday, relatable problem: Her best friend since kindergarten seems to be leaving her behind.
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What's the Story?
Rosie Oaks, now 11, has been pretty much fending for herself, emotionally at least, since she was born, as her mom is mentally elsewhere whlie keeping up the bare minimum of earning a living. What Rosie doesn't know, but soon finds out, is that this is the work of THE MEMORY THIEF, a witch who stole her mom's lifetime of memories as revenge --because before Rosie was born, her mom was a successful hunter of witches. Also, as Rosie soon discovers, there are a lot of ghosts in her house, some scarier than others. The terrifying discoveries keep on coming, including a fact the readers already know -- that teh only reason Rosie's alive is because the witches who meant to snatch and kill her at birth were tricked into taking a different baby. Perhaps most scary of all, her lifelong best friend Germ (real name Gemma) is showing an alarming interest in boys, eyeliner, and other things that threaten to leave Rosie and their friendship out in the cold.
Is It Any Good?
There's a lot going on in the first installment of Jodi Lynn Anderson's trilogy of cosmic conflict, hidden worlds, evil witches,dark forces, brave souls like its 11-year-old narrator -- and ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts, some scary, some kind. And amid all this, relatable middle-grade anguish as best friends grow and change, and family pain as Rosie's mom is emotionally zombie-like. Sometimes it all comes together uneasily in The Memory Thief, a bit of a cosmological pile-on with details (like that witches can't be killed) often revealed just in time to advance or complicate the plot. But amid all that are a lot of heart, depth, and moments of brilliant writing that embody the life-changing miracle of storytelling.
"On the first day of kindergarten, Germ laid herself at the foot of our classroom door, screaming for her mom. All the other kids steered clear of her -- I guess because of the banshee-like wailing. I knew what it was like to miss someone, even though for me it was someone right there. So I sat beside the wild-eyed, wild-haired stranger and awkwardly patted her back and told her a story I made up on the spot about a bat who ate ugly old mosquitoes and burped out stars instead. By the end of the story, Germ had stopped crying and I'd won a friend for life."
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the role of memories in The Memory Thief. Why do they matter, and how do they make you who you are? What are some memories that are really important to you? Why are they important to you?
Would you find it easier to deal with difficult people if you pretended they're under a curse?
In The Memory Thief, witches are portrayed as purely evil. In other stories, they're seen as kindly and helpful, and in still others as silly and humorous. Which version do you prefer?
- Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: March 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 13
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 2, 2021
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