20 Bad Books To Give To Young Kids

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15. The Witches

Many of you may have first been introduced to The Witches by way of the 1990 film version starring Anjelica Huston. It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s based on a novel, The Witches, published in 1983 and written by Roald Dahl.

An unnamed seven year old boy goes to live with his grandmother after his parents die in a car crash (already off to a good, horrifying start). His grandmother is a wonderful storyteller. The boy is especially enthralled by her tales of witches, who she claims are horrible creatures who seek to kill and eat children. She claims to know of multiple children who have fallen prey to these evil witches, and tells her grandson how to identify them. She’s also a retired witch hunter, or “witchophile”. English witches, grandmother says, are especially cruel. Terrible luck, then, that the pair are forced to move back to England in order to continues the boy’s schooling.

On a holiday at a luxury hotel, the boy stumbles upon a yearly meeting of England’s witches, attending by the Grand High Witch herself. The narrator and another boy are turned into mice. It’s at least a better fate than that of American kids, who are supposedly turned into hot dogs and eaten by their own parents.

Despite the mouse handicap, the boys manage to defeat the witches with the help of the narrator’s grandmother (though the boy does get his mouse tail chopped off by an overzealous cook). All the witches are turned into mice themselves, and are massacred by the hotel staff. The boy and his grandmother also work to turn all the other world’s witches into mice, after which they release cats.

In the end, it’s revealed that the boy cannot return to his human form. His grandmother tells him that, as a mouse, he’s got perhaps nine more years to live. The boy is cool with it, though, as he doesn’t want to outlive his grandmother. They’ll both get to die together. Upbeat!