The Witches

by Roald Dahl

Paperback, 1989



Local notes

PB Dah




Puffin (1989), 208 pages


A young boy and his Norwegian grandmother, who is an expert on witches, together foil a witches' plot to destroy the world's children by turning them into mice.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

208 p.; 7.8 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member lycomayflower
One of my old books I found in an recent root-round in the Ents' attic. Only okay as a reread in my late twenties, though the illustrations are great fun. When I do my fantasy class, we tend to end up reading a lot of children's lit, and I always ask them to think about what aspects of a book
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(beyond reading level) make a book for children. We get onto subjects about themes in children's lit, and one that always comes up is mistreatment of children (a staple of fairy tales as well as modern children's lit). My students are generally able to come up with some ideas about why children are mistreated in particular stories (for instance, a popular theory is that Harry Potter, in order to be an appealing and convincing hero, must come from humble beginnings), but none of my classes has ever come up with a good theory as to why this is a theme of children's literature as a whole. It's fascinating to me that so many stories designed for older children (say, sevenish and up) and young adults feature children who are either orphaned or mistreated (or both). It must, I suppose, tap into some fear or desire (or both) that children enjoy seeing explored in fiction. Anyway, all that to say that The Witches would fit very well into that conversation as the story is about beings whose primary goal is to rid the world of children--and who walk around disguised as the people young children are taught are the safest to approach: nice-looking ladies.
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LibraryThing member callista83
When I picked this book up I didn't realize it was the book version of a movie I had seen a few times and enjoyed. I had no idea the movie was based on a book, let alone this one. It was a pleasant surprise. The book and movie are quite alike.

In the book, witches live all over the place and are
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disguised as regular women. They hold an annual meeting where the grand high witch gives all the witches of a country their orders for the next year. Witches are really another species, naturally bald, with claws and no toes and they make children disappear.

The story is told by a little boy who had an encounter with witches and just barely lived to tell about it.

I think it's a great story for children as long as they don't scare easily and realize it's all just make believe.
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LibraryThing member BJK1903
A perfect book.
LibraryThing member skyblue621
ithink that the witches book is the most fanrastic book by roal dahl because it's mystical. The best thing about it is that the the boy in the story is trying to train his mice when the witches come in discised as the CTCP (Crulty To Children Porgram) although the grand high witch says to take off
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the wigs, the shoes and the gloves and sice that the boy knows about witches because his grandmother says that shes seen a witch wich explains about the missing thumb she has. but i think thats it a great booklet.
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LibraryThing member BethsLibrary
What a great book! A little boy and his grandmother work together to try and destroy witches all over the world. Unlike some children's books, this book portrays witches as creepy, scary, and mean. This makes it perfect for an older child. The story of the boy and his grandmother really touches the
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heart. It's a great read for autumn and I will definitely be reading it with my daughter when she is older.
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LibraryThing member Melanie_MacDonald
The Witches by Roald Dahl tells the tale of a young boy and his grandmother, and their efforts to destroy the evil witches of the world. Grandmother knows so much about witches – about how to spot them, and what they are really like underneath their disguises, and she tells her young grandson all
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about these evil creatures who are known to hate children. While on vacation at a quaint little hotel, the young grandson discovers that all the witches of England have gathered at a conference in the very hotel they are staying in. He overhears their plan to turn all the kids of England into mice with a potion, but when he tries to escape and tell his grandmother, the evil witches capture him and turn him into a mouse. He escapes, and still able to talk and think like a human, he finds his grandmother and tells her about what has happened. Together, they hatch a plan to kill the evil witches at the conference, and all over the world.

This is a fun story for readers, with excellent narration from a child’s point of view. It is funny and witty, highly imaginative with great detail about the real witches of the world. Dahl’s story jumps off the page, and you can actually see how gruesome the witches are. The young boy’s grandmother is his greatest ally, and she is portrayed in a way unlike most grandmothers – she smokes cigars, doesn’t care if her grandson bathes, and is thrilled to get the chance to take down the Grand High Witch. She is delighted to spend her remaining years as a witch-hunter with her mouse grandson. The illustrations flow very well with this story, while still leaving much to the reader’s imagination. Overall, it is a good story, a little scary at times and perfect for an audience of eight to twelve year olds.

The Witches has won awards including the ALA Notable Children’s Books in 1984, Costa Book Awards Children’s Book Award, and the Western Australian Young Reader’s Book Award.
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LibraryThing member rata
Brilliant, humourous great read for younger readers as well as older readers. I liked the way that Dahl has used fun language and expression to make the story come alive when reading it. The story is of a small boy (orphaned) who goes to live with his Norwegian grandmother in Norway. His
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cigar-smoking grandmother tells him about witches and how they spend their time plotting to get rid of children. She also tells him about witches and how to spot them although they all look like nice ladies, they are difficult but not impossible to spot. They all wear wigs to cover their bald heads, therefore have very itchy scalps, have square feet and wear gloves to hide their claw fingers. At the reading of the will it states that his parents wish for the boy (Dahl in his early years ????)to be brought up in England so the two emigrate. Upon arriving in England the grandmother decides that they both need a holiday before starting school. When the boy and his grandmother are at a Bournemouth hotel, other guests who are there for a conference, the lady-delegates to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children start scratching away. The boy is caught up behind a screen(due to being there when he shouldn't be) in the very room where these ladies are holding their conference. Then the pretty head lady takes off her mask: the Grand High Witch incarnate! To demonstrate her Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker, she's already fed some to greedy, obnoxious little Bruno Jenkins - who turns into a mouse on schedule. The Grand High Witch has concocted this potion to be put into sweets which will then be fed to all the children who will ultimately become mice, which will then be exterminated. Will Dahl be detected, hiding behind the screen? He hasn't washed in days, but some of that tell-tale child-scent, anathema to witches, escapes and they pounce on him. Forcefed the potion, he joins Bruno scampering about the floor - but they still have their own voices. Making back to his grandmother they plot a plan. He steals a bottle of the potion; pours it into the witch-delegates' soup tureen; and has the exquisite pleasure of seeing them turned into mice, to be wiped out on the spot by scared guests and angry chefs parrying pots, pans and knives. With this task complete and Dahl not being able to attend school as a mouse he and his grandmother return to Norway. Here he wonders if she'll live out his short mouse-life span, and she's plotting to get rid of the world's remaining witches.
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LibraryThing member kellycardosa
i love the magic and terror in this book
LibraryThing member setonhansen
This is about a boy and his grandmother who go on vacation and end up at the same hotel as a witch convention. This is a problem because the witches hate kids. The witches turn the boy into a mouse. the grandmother and boy devise a plan to destroy these witches and succeed in doing so.
LibraryThing member PuffyBear
This book was really, really, good. I think that is because Roald Dahl describes things really well. I really enjoyed it. In this book there is a boy with no parents that lives with his grandmother. There there are witches. The boy hears about the witches newest plan. Will he be able to stop them?
LibraryThing member mich_yms
Witches are women who hate children. Yes, they are always women, and children to them smell like dog’s droppings. Dahl even has an entire chapter dedicated to telling us ‘How to Recognise a Witch’!

Our boy in this story gets turned into a mouse in a very unfortunate turn of events, but he
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doesn’t seem to be the least bit disturbed about being turned into a mouse. No sir-ree! No more homework, no more school. What more could a boy want?

Our Grandmamma herself used to be a witchophile and knows all about witches. And so though she is surprised to see her dearest grandson now a mouse, she is able to accept it. Better still, they now hatch a plan to get rid of the witches of England, together with The Grand High Witch of All The World!

You just can’t help but read and read and read till you get to the end.
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LibraryThing member StormRaven
For a story aimed at children, The Witches is decidedly dark. A young boy living in England is orphaned, and goes to Norway to live with his Grandmother, who happens to be an expert on witches. In the story, witches are real, and their sole purpose in life is to kill young children. One can
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determine who is a witch if one knows what to looks for, but the witches are able to cover them up in various ways - claws on their hands are hidden by gloves, bald heads hidden by wigs, and so on.

Grandma tells her charge all about witches, including the frightening ways they killed some children she knew. She tells him about the worldwide witch organization and how it is run by the grand high witch, a vile person that no one has ever been able to track down. She also says that witches can smell children, and that he should rarely bathe, which I'm sure is advice many young readers would like to hear. After some legal problems concerning his parents' will, the two move back to England, a place that is supposed to have the worst witches.

While on vacation, our hero stumbles into the annual meeting of England's witches, and none other than the grand high witch. While in hiding (having not taken a bath for several days), he overhears the witches' plan to eliminate all the children in England by turning them into mice, whereupon their teachers and parents will inevitably kill them.

He witnesses them turning a boy named Bruno Jenkins into a mouse, and is discovered and turned into a mouse himself. After many adventures, he and his grandmother turn the tables on the witches, turning them into mice to be killed by the hotel staff. He and his grandmother than plan to find the grand high witches' castle and kill the rest of the witches in the world, making for a happy ending.

Sort of. As they don't have a counter spell, he remains a mouse, although that only seems to inconvenience him a little. Bruno is not so fortunate, as the two speculate that his parents probably had him drowned. As a mouse, his lifespan is shortened to nine years or so too. So, while the good guys emerge victorious, they pay a significant cost. The Witches is a scary, bittersweet story, and nothing less than I would expect from Dahl.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Hang on to your brooms as Grandma of Norway teaches her grandson a thing or two or four about REAL witches:
They have claws
They have square feet
They wear wigs because they have no hair and
They HATE children

Competing in hilarity with granny Mazar of the Evanovich series, Grandma of Norway travels
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with her grandson right into the heart of a witches convention where all chaos breaks loose.

This is a light, breezy fun read. Dahl is a master craftsman of image and wordsmith extraordinaire!
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LibraryThing member neverlistless
I saw others here on LT discussing this book recently and just had to read it. I remember the movie as a young child and how much fun it was; this book didn't disappoint. Dahl did a wonderful job of telling the absurd story of a young boy who learns about REAL WITCHES. REAL WITCHES hate children
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and concoct ways to rid the world of as many children as possible. One day, the boy and his grandmother go to an English hotel for vacation. It just so happens that the annual meeting for all REAL WITCHES in England is at that very hotel.

This was good fun and easy to read. It was very descriptive and the adventure unfolded brightly and clearly. Very nice escape for today.
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LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
Roald Dahl excels at taking a theme and turning into a tale that can stay with the reader because of a unique perception within the characters. The Witches is no exception to his abilities. The story of a boy and his grandmother, taking on the world of evil witches, even after faced with the
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adversity of the boy's transformation into a mouse, teaches that fighting against the darkness of the world often means having to take stock of your capabilities and turning your shortfalls into them as well.

While the concept of this story may be disturbing at its most basic level - witches exist with the sole purpose of ridding the world of children - the idea that the evil is vulnerable is a powerful lesson. And the focus within the story on the love between grandmother and child is also strong.
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LibraryThing member oxlena
I loved this book when I was younger. I read it the other day, and found that even after all these years, I still like it. The movie they made out of it wasn't as impressive as the book though. -_- 3.5/5 better things I can think of to do to children than turn them to mice.
LibraryThing member Krista23
Great read for Halloween! Watch out for the witches for they will give the children treats that turn them into mice, hide them in your paintings or make them disappear. I also recommend this on audiobook, great narrator.
LibraryThing member mellonhead
A fantastic book for children. Dahl writes with humor and intelligence for children. My son LOVED this book. He even begged me to let him take it to school to share it with his class (2nd grade).
LibraryThing member mccin68
a an orphaned boy and his grandmother fight a band of witches set on exterminating the children of england.
LibraryThing member Austin22
It is about a boy who finds out about whiches and their plot to turn every kid into mice. It is all up to him to save the day
LibraryThing member m3student
It is about a little boy who gets turned in toa rat by all sorts of different witches. Round about the end one of the witches (who didn't die of food poisen) turned him back to life!
LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed May 2000

Read on an airplane from Cleveland. I learned lots from this book, I know that the next time I meet a bald, toeless woman who spits blue and always wears gloves I know I will have met a REAL WITCH! A charming story about a boy and his grandmother. I found the loss of his parents
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to be too minimized and the picture of the grandmother smoking those big black cigars that smell like licorice disgusting. The story is cute and predictable. You do feel the morality of the grandmother and sadness of the loss of her life.

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LibraryThing member Othemts
I complete my Dahlfest by saying “This is a book for kids?!?!” This gruesome tale says there are women among us who are witches whose one goal in life is to kill children. Of course, kids love this stuff even if it shocks their parents. Once again, I was caught by surprise in how Dahl defies
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conventions. I really thought that the narrator would be able to turn back into a boy after being made a mouse, but he stays a mouse until the end (even though he’s supposed to write this book). The story deals with consequences you may be unable to fix as well as mortality. Quite fascinating
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LibraryThing member lisajoanne
I wouldn't call this Roald Dahl's best, but it's certainly up there. What an incredibly creative man! I'll be honest ... I read this book a LONG time ago, but it is truly fantastic. For younger kids, it gets a little scary toward the end, but all in all, this is a pretty good book.
LibraryThing member rainbowdarling
I loved the Witches. The idea that witches aren't ladies with green skin and a multitude of warts interested me when I read this book as a kid, and I think the story continues to have appeal even after having grown up. Roald Dahl has the ability to weave stories that are fanciful and borderline
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ridiculous but writing it in such a way as to make it appealing to all ages.
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