A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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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Products & Purchases
Connie is fond of "Zigley's" gum.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.