The Widow’s Broom

This picture book for grades 2-5 would make a wonderful Halloween read-aloud.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: grades 2 through 5; Reading level: 5.3
4 out of 5 stars

Witches’ brooms don’t last forever. They grow old, and even the best of them, one day, lose the power of flight.

This opening sentence sets up a story that is both suspenseful and unpredictable.

As readers can predict, the witch in the story is riding her broom when it loses power and she falls to ground. She lands in a vegetable garden where she is found the next day, bruised and battered, by the widow who lives there, Minna Shaw. Minna Shaw is a kind woman and takes the witch into her home to recover.

The witch recovers, but she leaves behind the powerless broom. Minna Shaw “began using it around the house and found that it was no better or worse than brooms she’d used before.” Until one morning, when Minna Shaw heard a noise and discovers the broom sweeping the floor all by itself.Untitled
Chris Van Allsburg’s illustrations are, as usual, absolutely stunning in their detail. The sepia-tone colors and style fit the eerie tone of the story perfectly. I have to admit that as the broom was sweeping and doing chores, I couldn’t help but think about the The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Disney.

The end of the story contains an interesting twist that will surprise most readers.

The Widow’s Broom
by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin, 1992
ISBN 0-395-64051-2

Book review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon; 5 out of 5 stars #bookaday

The Girl Who Drank the Moon book coverby Kelly Barnhill
Middle grade chapter book
Interest level: grades 5-8
5 out of 5 stars

This book is set to be released on Aug. 15, 2016.

This is an extremely well-written middle grade novel that has fairy tale qualities, and also tackles magic, love, and the creation of the world by a bog/beast/poet. Kelly Barnhill has created well-developed characters and a fully realized setting in a fairy tale type world. While a longer read at a little under 400 pages, the plot is well-paced and keeps the reader engaged and moving through the story.

The main character is Luna, a young girl about to turn 13. Luna’s birth parents live in a cursed village that is shrouded in gloom. Each year the village elders take the youngest child in the village and leave it in the forest for a witch. The village believes that the sacrifice will keep the witch from attacking the city. The witch does come to get Luna in the forest, but as she has done every year, the witch rescues the orphaned child.

Thus begins the story where the reader learns that all is not as it seems in the village, and the witch is actually a healer with magical abilities. As Luna gets older, the reader watches as the two worlds — the village and the witch’s — start to intersect, and the truth begins to be revealed.

The story is suspenseful and complex, so I would recommend this book to more mature readers in grades 4 and up.