The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories Book Poster Image
Young Pratchett fans will enjoy early lighthearted tales.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The stories in The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner show that teen writers can find an audience for their work.

Positive Messages

Friends stick together. Bravery and resourcefulness usually pay off. Crime, including sheep-rustling, doesn't pay.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the stories feature brave adventurers unafraid of exploring the unknown. Constable Bryn Bunyan wields the "fastest truncheon in the Wild West (Wales)." Even the most misguided villain usually has a good heart.

Violence

Feuding ice cream vendors throw frozen confections at each other. Bank robbers brandish toy guns.

Sex
Language

"Blimey" is as rough as it gets.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Welsh bandits drink "leek beer" at the local saloon.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner is a collection of 14 stories for young readers, written by Terry Pratchett when he was a junior newspaper reporter. They are not very complex or polished, but they spotlight the enthusiasm of a teen writer experimenting with his craft. The stories feature talking animals, travels to magical lands, and encounters with fantastic or historical figures. Violence is rare and mild when it occurs. These stories are best suited for 9- and 10-year-olds; older readers may find them a little too silly.

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What's the story?

THE WITCH'S VACUUM CLEANER collects 14 fantasy stories, written when budding fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett was 17. They feature characters and situations aimed at young readers: a time-traveling television, a feud between ice cream vendors, statues coming to life, and many more fantastical situations. One story offers a preview of Pratchett's later novel Truckers.

Is it any good?

These stories are not polished or complex, but they have an antic energy that's hard to resist. Not every 17-year-old is capable of writing fantasy stories that anyone would want read decades later, but when the writer is Terry Pratchett, the odds are a lot better. This follow-up to Dragons at Crumbling Castle offers 14 tales that demonstrate how skilled a storyteller he was at an early age.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and how newspapers used to publish fiction for young readers. How have newspapers changed since the advent of the internet?

  • How do students learn to write stories? What are some good methods of practicing storytelling skills?

  • Why do people laugh at the customs of another culture? Are there ways to do it without hurting anyone's feelings?

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