February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag | SLJ Review

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redstarOSTERTAG, Molly. The Witch Boy. ­illus. by Molly Ostertag. 224p. Scholastic/Graphix. Nov. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338089523; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781338089516.

Gr 4-7 –Aster belongs to a magical family, but he is having problems with one of the most basic rules: shapeshifting is for boys, while witchcraft is for girls. Aster is fascinated by the spells that the girls are learning, so he spies on their lessons whenever he can. When several boys disappear during shapeshifting practice, Aster realizes that he can help save them using witchcraft to battle a strange and powerful enemy—but he’ll have to break his family’s traditions and risk his life. Both the plot and the overall message are straightforward and familiar but engaging. Beneath the fantastical elements lies a story about upending gender expectations, forging identity, and uncovering heroic potential in oneself. Those who enjoy sci-fi or fantasy stories about protagonists who must prove that their society’s rules are flawed will appreciate this offering. Ostertag’s bright, gentle, cartoonlike artwork brims with life and adds extra appeal to this fast-moving story. VERDICT An excellent choice for reluctant readers, fans of fantasy, and those looking for books that explore gender roles.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

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