The Witches: The Graphic Novel

Scholastic. Sept. 2020. 304p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338677447; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338677430.
Gr 3-6–What a brash undertaking! To retell The Witches as a graphic novel and to replace the original illustrator Quentin Blake’s familiar style—it would be unseemly if Bagieu didn’t make it so utterly charged. The pacing is incredible as panel after panel and spot after spot of long views, close-ups, wide-angle perspectives, and facial zooms relay the story of a boy-turned-rodent who succeeds in ridding England of witches by putting a mouse-making serum into the soup they are served. This may lure an entirely new generation of readers into Dahl’s books—at more than 300 pages, it’s a sizable, satisfying tome. It’s perfect fourth and fifth grade humor: grotesque humans, horrific witches in disguise as beautifully outfitted women, with high heels and push-up bras, leering close takes of a chef’s crotch as a mouse in his pants bulges, and another scene of the man in tighty-whities, pants down. Is this in good taste? No. Is it funny? Yes. Let’s leave controversy aside. Women fare badly; parents even worse. The message of the boy’s acceptance of being a mouse with a lifespan that matches his caretaker dubious, and the chain-smoking grandmother (who has brown skin, as does her young charge) at the center of the tale won’t win any awards as a healthy role model, but she is the most loving person present.
VERDICT Warts and all, whether witches or Dahl, the book will be devoured by readers and shared widely among peers.

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