Williams, Suzanne. The Witch Casts A Spell. Illustrated by Barbara Olsen. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002.
Setting: Modern-day Halloween
Point of View: 3rd person
Theme: Halloween, costumes, parties, music, witches, ghosts, mummies, scarecrows, vampires, bands, dancing, spooks, families, friends, evenings, nighttime, jack-o-lanterns, “The Farmer in the Dell,” festivities, holidays
Literary Quality: Written to the tune of, “The Farmer in the Dell,” this Halloween story will get readers singing in no time. The refrain, “Such sights are seen on Halloween,” lends itself perfectly to the song’s bouncing rhythm. Readers and listeners will be eager to participate, and the repetition of each phrase makes it easy to do so. When the guests return home, “They all change for bed,” and we discover that a little girl who crashed the party is actually a witch! A line or two of bold text on each page pairs with brightly colored mixed media illustrations–full of delightful details–to bring this festive Halloween party to life. Border illustrations help frame the white space around the text, and older readers might enjoy piecing together the collage words in the borders, too.
Audience: I would recommend this picture book for ages 1-10. It is perfect for a read-aloud (truly a sing-aloud!), or solo read, at home or in a classroom setting. It might inspire older readers to change the lyrics to other favorite songs to tell a Halloween tale.
Personal reaction: This book was so much fun that it motivated me to post up here again after quite the break! There are a lot of holiday books out there that are just kind of “blah,” they seem to be on the market for market reasons only, but this is not one of them. I read this to my fourteen-month-old son who promptly began dancing and clapping with each page. We read the book three times in a single sitting and five times total this Halloween day, and we must have sung the song another four times without the book! This is a Halloween story with a lot of heart. It brings some spook and cheer to any Halloween celebration. It is also a nice alternative to books focused on trick-or-treating. Keep it on your list for next year! It’s certainly on mine.