Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes (1960)

Two imaginative friends, Amy and Clarissa, love to draw together, and to make up stories about Old Witch whom Amy has "banquished" to the glass hill, never to come down again except on Halloween. To help Old Witch feel less lonely, the girls send both Little Witch Girl and baby Weeny Witch to keep her company. But when Amy and Clarissa meet Little Witch Girl face to face, the line between reality and fantasy becomes suddenly very blurred.

This was our Halloween read-aloud this year, and it was a huge hit with my oldest two daughters, M., age 7 and C., age 5. Like the characters in the story, they, too, like to make up stories together, and they seemed utterly fascinated by the idea of imagined characters coming into the real world.

For me, though I liked the concept of the story, reading it aloud was tedious. There is a character called Malachi, who is a "spelling bee" and he spells everything he says. I liked to adhere exactly to the text when I read aloud, and in the beginning, spelling Malachi's short sentences was no big deal. As his pieces of dialogue got longer, however,  it became too much. In the end, I let the audiobook take over for me for several chapters, and when I did read a section myself, I just read the words and let the kids assume they were spelled. 

This challenge aside, however, the story is really fun to read aloud. Old Witch's catchphrase, "Oh glory be!" is really fun to say in a witchy voice, and I also found myself really enjoying Amy's voice too. My kids enjoyed imitating the characters as well, and they got very into drawing their own pictures of Old Witch and the rest of the family. 

I was excited to learn that another Eleanor Estes book we own, The Curious Adventures of Jimmy McGee, is another story about Amy and Clarissa. I have it on my mental list of future books to read aloud, and we might even get to it this winter. 

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