Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Witches (Graphic Novel)

Dahl, Roald and Pénélope Bagieu. The Witches: The Graphic Novel
September 1st 2020 by Scholastic Inc. 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I am not a fan of Dahl, which is odd considering that he started writing when I was a child. His work is odd, and not in a pleasant way. He may be the reason that so many British writers portray adults as inherently evil and cruel to children. Not only that, but Dahl was, by all accounts, not very nice. My library has a few books that were purchased before I got here; I haven't added any others, and had never read The Witches (1983). Still not a huge fan, and I was considering getting the graphic novel for my bloodthirsty readers who all want to snuggle up with a good murder until the uproar over the movie

A young boy goes to live with his eccentric, chain smoking grandmother after the death of his parents. He's used to being told bedtime stories, and so grandmother tells him one about the witches of the world who all hate children. They are bald, have weird fingers and toes, and odd eyes. When the grandmother becomes ill, the doctor visits and recommends a trip to the seaside for the cool air. Once there, the boy gets a present of two mice, but the hotel wants them to be kept in a cage. Since this interferes with training them to do circus tricks, the boy hunts around the hotel for a vacant space and finds an empty conference room. Soon, however, it is filled with women.. all wearing wigs and looking suspiciously like his grandmother's tales of witches. Sure enough, the Grand High Witch herself is there, and unveils her plan to turn all of the children in the world into mice while they are at school so that the teachers kill them. She has the serum developed, and needs to witches to set up candy shops to distribute the potion. She turns a girl into a mouse before their eyes, and turns the boy as well. The two children manage to get back to the grandmother, and they plan to snatch a bottle of potion, does the witches, and avert disaster by having them turn into mice. It's a plan fraught with peril, but they are successful. Returning home, the boy decides to stay a mouse, since his grandmother is 83 to his 8, and he will live about as long as she does if he remains in mouse form. 
Strengths: The drawings are excellently creepy, even though they don't bear any resemblance to Quentin Blake's illustrations at all. The grandmother is very supportive of her grandson, and clearly loves him. She is quite the character. The story moves quickly, and the adaptation manages to describe things in enough detail that it's all easy to understand. 
Weaknesses: This has some fairly gross and disturbing moments, with the boy in mouse form getting his tail hacked off in the kitchen, the witches turning into mice, and the head witch revealing her true form. 
What I really think: So disturbing, and not in any sort of instructive way. There's no allegorical, moral lesson, and the fact that the boy wanted to stay a mouse so he would die when his grandmother did... just not my idea of a pleasant read. Others will enjoy this foray into Dahl's dark world, but I think I developed a new frown line or two reading this. 

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