The Witch's Boy

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
The Witch's Boy Book Poster Image
Exciting, moving magical adventure explores love and greed.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Though The Witch's Boy is a fantasy, it may inspire readers to think about the consequences of greed and war, as well as the true meaning of friendship. 

Positive Messages

It's important to do the right thing, even if everyone else thinks it's the wrong thing. Don't let other people's opinion of you affect how you see yourself. Look beyond the surface of who people appear to be. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ned has grown up hearing everyone call him "the wrong boy," yet he still tries to do what's right, even when he's humiliated for it or when it causes him physical pain. Áine is a practical problem solver and does what needs to be done even when her tasks seem impossible. Both are loyal friends and will protect their loved ones at all costs.


The early chapters include a scene where a boy drowns and a girl's mother dies. Later, a boy is captured by bandits and his father is tied up and abandoned. Ruthless bandits try to kill the children, and several people are injured or killed in a war. A mother wolf is shot and killed. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A foolish king drinks to excess the night before a battle.

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. 

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old November 27, 2020

A magic world of an exciting and spellbinding adventure! AWESOME!

This is a great book! I would totally recommend on reading it! It is a fun and exciting adventure between two people, Ned and Aine as they adventure to stop a w... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old August 30, 2017

Kid age9

I think The Witch's Boy would be good for age 9 to age 13. I would recommend this book to people who love adventure and a lot of excitement. And it gets... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

Themes & Topics

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