I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.
This week I'm reviewing The Witches, by Roald Dahl.
This is one of two Middle Grade books on the list, the other being Coraline, which I've already reviewed. So my review will be pretty simple.
The Witches was a good scary book for kids. At the very beginning, it introduces witches as real things in a convincing way, saying they look normal, rather than scary. Then it tells the child reader the teacher reading to them is probably a witch. It sets up a scare and casts doubt on the adult reading the book to them. Seems like a good way to give kids a thrill.
I imagine many of you already know the story, whether from the book or the movie. A young boy's grandmother tells him about witches, warning him of signs to look out for. They go on a trip together, and he ends up in a room full of witches, who hate children and can smell them wherever they are. He's caught and turned into a mouse, leading to his grandmother and him taking on a mission to destroy the witches and stop their evil plans.
Though it's a children's book, there are solid scare tactics and writing tricks employed that make it worth a quick read (and it IS a quick read) for horror authors. The story and details are basic, as you would expect, but it's entertaining.
My new rankings:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
5. The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 (Paula Guran)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
8. Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror (Ellen Datlow)
9. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
10. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
11. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
12. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
13. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
14. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
15. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
16. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
17. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
18. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
19. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
20. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
21. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
22. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
23. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
24. World War Z (Max Brooks)
25. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury)
26. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
27. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
28. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
29. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
30. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell)
31. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
32. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)
The next book I review will be Needful Things, by Stephen King.
Have you read Roald Dahl books? Which is your favorite? Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you read it as an adult or a kid? Did you read it to your kids (or better yet, students)?
May you find your Muse.