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The Witch's Curse



Brother and sister dodge more evil in funny, scary sequel.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Sol's academic brilliance sometimes saves the day; witches, good and evil, often speak French and German. The kids' lost mother was a brilliant scientist, whose work on global warming Sol admires.

Positive messages

Strong messages about resourcefulness, determination, and rising above sibling rivalry and annoying behavior to look out for each other.

Positive role models

Sol and Connie are believable siblings who sometimes get on each other's nerves or worse, but they stick together and save each other from many perils. They're also determined and resourceful. Other characters, from the brave thrush to the old lady who owns the pet store, come to their aid in spite of many dangers.


While there's little gore, the experience of being a kid hunted down as prey is vividly conveyed, and there are scary rooms filled with the hunter's past victims. One such kid's death is important to the story. The theme of wicked parents who abandon or kill their children continues, as most of the kids who end up in the accursed woods are fleeing terrible homes.

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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Witch's Curse, sequel to The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children, is scary, funny, and often startlingly sweet. Kids Sol and Connie, who escaped Hansel and Gretel's witch in the first book, face new dangers from a witch who transforms children into animals and then sends a hunter after them. Things are seldom what they seem, awful fates are constantly lurking, and nerd genius Sol is constantly trying to protect Connie, who's often the classic bratty little sister. There's a lot of heart in the story and in Yoko Tanaka's spookily appealing illustrations; some sensitive kids may find the deaths of kids at the hands of the hunter, and the well-conveyed sense of being a kid transformed into a hunted animal, too scary.

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What's the story?

Following their encounter with the child-cooking witch in The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children, siblings Sol and Connie flee their hometown, hoping to reach their long-lost aunt. Instead, they are soon lost in a scary forest, home to another witch, and a hunter she's cursed with hunting down children she's transformed into animals. Things get even scarier when Sol starts turning into a deer.

Is it any good?


THE WITCH'S CURSE is scary, funny, and heartfelt, and author Keith McGowan, helped by Yoko Tanaka's distinctive illustrations, manages this difficult balancing act in style. Characters -- good and evil -- are complex and thought-provoking, Sol and Connie's terrors and triumphs will resonate with many kids, and the fast-moving plot is full of surprises. Although this is a sequel, it includes enough essential information from the first volume that it can be read first.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Sol and Connie's relationship as siblings -- how are they like other brothers and sisters you know? How are they different?

  • Why are books about witches and magic so popular? What others have you read and liked?

  • Various characters in the story are operating under a curse that limits what they're able to do. Why do you think some of them just give up and others keep trying to do the right thing?

Book details

Author:Keith McGowan
Illustrator:Yoko Tanaka
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Fairy tales, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Publication date:March 19, 2013
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byTripFoot June 28, 2013

The REAL Review...

... from our pal Kirkus: Having narrowly avoided becoming dinner in The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children (2009), sibs Sol and Connie face another folkloric fate in this equally gothic sequel. Hoping to leave child-eating neighbor Fay Holaderry far behind, Sol and Connie board a departing bus—but then incautiously step off while the driver fixes a flat and are immediately lost in a justly ill-reputed forest. Fortunately, they run into Monique, a friendly forester who leads them to her cabin. Unfortunately, Monique is another evil witch, who transforms the children into animals for her bespelled huntsman, David, to hunt down and convert into taxidermy exhibits. McGowan infuses his tale with Brothers Grimm–style motifs and atmosphere, but obscure riddles, Sol’s homemade computer and several other elements turn out to clutter the story rather than contribute to it. Furthermore, David’s fatalistic ruminations on his curse (recorded in multiple journal entries) are likely to leave even adult readers cold, and his relationship with Monique comes off as, at best, ambiguous. Tanaka’s scenes of androgynous-looking children gradually acquiring animal parts ably abet the atmosphere. Extraneous elements, rampant psycho-symbolism and multiple point-of-view switches turn this into a loosely woven grab-bag, but the resolution does provide some satisfaction.


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