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The Witch's Boy
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kelly Barnhill's The Witch's Boy has some deeply heartbreaking moments, such as parents losing a son, a boy losing his twin brother, and a daughter losing both her parents. There's peril and violence, including bandits trying to kill the children, and several people injured or killed in a war. A mother wolf is shot and killed. But, ultimately, The Witch's Boy is an uplifting story of the triumph of friendship, love, and the choice to help people rather than to wield power over them.
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What's the story?
When Ned's twin drowns, everyone's sure that "the wrong boy" lived. Ned grows up under the shadow of his brother's death, watching his mother use her magic for good to help the people in her village. Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, Áine lives with her father, the Bandit King. Though Áine loves her father, she watches as the magical pendant he wears changes him into a ruthless, power-hungry man. When the Bandit King tries to steal Ned's mother's magic and ends up stealing Ned instead, the two children's fates become irrevocably intertwined, and they must work together both to save the kingdom and save each other.
Is it any good?
THE WITCH'S BOY manages to be both an action-filled page-turner and a thought-provoking, emotional story. Ned and Áine each deal with difficult situations that will make readers empathize with the painful choices they have to make. Especially intriguing is how author Kelly Barnhill makes us root for each of them, even when they seem to be at odds with each other.
Infused with humor and a casually nonsexist cast of characters (the teams of soldiers and bandits are made up of both men and women), this is that wonderful kind of middle-grade fantasy in which the darkness of death and sadness is balanced with the power of hope, love, and friendship.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Witch's Boy is told through multiple characters' points of view. Have you read other books that do this? What do you think it adds to a story? Can you think of some movies that use multiple points of view?
How are fantasy novels different from realistic fiction? How are they similar?
What do you like about reading about fantasies? And why do you think they're so popular with kids, teens, and adults?
- Author: Kelly Barnhill
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
- Publication date: September 16, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.