Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fumbling Through Fantasy: What the Witch Left by Ruth Chew (1973)

In the chest of drawers in Katy Turner's bedroom, there is a locked drawer in which her granny's friend, Aunt Martha, has left some of her things. One day, Katy and her friend Louise decide to peek in the drawer. What they find on this and subsequent looks into the secret hiding place is a collection of magical items: gloves that make it effortless to work with one's hands, a bathrobe that makes the wearer invisible, a pair of boots to shorten travel distances, and a tin box and a hand mirror with less obvious magical properties. As Katy and Louise learn the powers of these magical objects, they also encounter a number of unexpected difficulties caused by meddling with magic.

This is not a Halloween book per se, since it is set closer to Thanksgiving, but I read it aloud to my older two daughters in October to satisfy their desire for non-spooky witch books, and it hit just the right note with both of them. Ruth Chew writes fantasy in a style similar to the realistic fiction of Carolyn Haywood. The characters are believable little girls with cozy home lives, and though they go on adventures, they are never in any real danger, nor do they get into any kind of trouble that can't be resolved inside of a chapter or two. There is some suspense, which caused my girls to frequently beg for just one more chapter, but not enough that anyone would lose sleep worrying about the fate of the characters.

Though I read this book aloud, it's really ideal as an independent read for a child around the third grade level. I will probably continue to read Chew's books aloud for a little while since my girls have latched onto them so readily, but I'm also keeping them in mind for my current four-year-old beginning reader to enjoy on her own in a few years.

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