The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children Book Poster Image

The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children



Grimm's witch returns to cook again in darkly funny tale.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Sol and Connie are both brainy kids; he's big on scientific experiments, some of which play a crucial role in the story, while she likes literary classics such as Wuthering Heights. There are many sly references to literary works besides the Grimm fairy tale that inspired the story, one of which is that the child-eating witch's cute dog is named J. Swift. Also, one of the dogs in the story has been trained with German commands, and his owner asks the kids a riddle in German, so young readers will pick up some vocabulary in that language.

Positive messages

The love and loyalty of two siblings can win out over both the kids' own darker (or at least brattier) sides and the evil plots of villains. Help comes from unexpected quarters.

Positive role models

Sol and Connie are both resourceful and intrepid in facing up to life-threatening hazards. Connie has played a couple of rotten tricks on Sol lately and is feeling too guilty to tell him about it; when he learns the truth at the worst possible moment he isn't sure he can forgive her, but is sure he's still going to protect her. The old lady who runs the pet shop is, besides being kind to animals, determined to save as many kids as possible from the wicked Fay. The kids' late mother was a brilliant scientist.


The plot centers on a witch who cooks and eats children, and has done so, gleefully, for centuries. Sol begins to suspect what his odd neighbor is up to when her cocker spaniel has a human femur bone in his mouth. In self-defense, the kids resort to violence à la Hansel and Gretel's shoving the witch into the oven.

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Connie is fond of "Zigley's" gum.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children, a clever update of "Hansel and Gretel," will appeal to kids who aren't upset by scary, violence-tinged humor, as a modern-day witch (who is in fact the same one from the fairy tale) gleefully takes unwanted children off their parents' hands -- and eats them. Kids who don't like scary stories may have trouble with  the cannibalism, the parental betrayal, and Yoko Tanaka's highly stylized illustrations, which could be nightmare fodder for some kids and a delight to others. 

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What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Sol and his 8-year-old sister, Connie, have just moved to a new town when they meet a strange old lady and her cocker spaniel. Unbeknownst to them, the old lady is the same witch from the \"Hansel and Gretel\" story, who's gone from that day to this devouring unfortunate children whose parents can't wait to be rid of them -- and working on her cookbook, THE WITCH'S GUIDE TO COOKING WITH CHILDREN. Before long, the kids start to notice that things are a bit off, from their parents' strange behavior to the cocker spaniel's odd-looking bone.

Is it any good?


Both the story and the illustrations are clever and imaginative, and won't be every kid's dish -- some will love the creepiness, while others will do better with something sunnier. The narrative is sometimes disjointed and leaves many questions unanswered at the book's end, leaving room for answers in the  sequel, The Witch's Curse

Kids who don't like scary stories may have trouble with  the cannibalism, the parental betrayal, and Yoko Tanaka's highly stylized illustrations, which could be nightmare fodder for some kids and a delight to others. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children compares with other versions of the "Hansel and Gretel" story. How is it similar? How is it different?

  • The evil witch Fay's victims are kids, good and bad, whose parents don't want them and don't care what it takes to get rid of them. Are there are parents like this in real life? Are they the scariest thing about the story?

  • Why is it funny that a character who eats children has a dog named J. Swift?

Book details

Author:Keith McGowan
Illustrator:Yoko Tanaka
Genre:Fairy Tale
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Fairy tales, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:192
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children was written by

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