The Witch's Boy Paperback – Apr 12 2006
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6-9–Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a woman who lived by herself in the middle of a great forest. Thus begins this literary fairy tale of a witch who takes into her home an ugly, abandoned infant whom she calls Lump. Wise in the ways of magic, the witch is inexpert in the ways of motherhood and so she appoints, in turn, a bear as his nursemaid and a djinni as his tutor. As predicted by her cat familiar, all does not go well and the witch is forced to give up her magic to save the boy. The adolescent Lump, far from being grateful for her sacrifice, becomes increasingly troublesome. Gruber incorporates well-known tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumplestiltskin into his narrative, giving readers a different, and sometimes more frightening, take on these childhood staples. The inclusion of these retellings and the elegance with which the author shapes his fable will appeal to readers who love to immerse themselves in the complex reworked fairy tales of Donna Jo Napoli. This is not a quick read, but it is an engrossing and enormously satisfying one.–Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. From the hypnotic mask on the cover to its perfect fairy-tale ending, this astonishing fantasy compels readers onward. Gruber, the author of several adult thrillers, has done much more than offer a well-structured adventure, full of mystery and magic--though he certainly does all that. He also plumbs the depths of the human heart and lays bare its emotions in a way that causes readers to respond instinctively. The story begins when a witch finds a baby so ugly that the note with it reads, "the devil's child for the devil's wife." The witch has no business with a child, but she fancies it, so she gets a bear to be its nanny and a hideous djinni to tutor it. Then she continues her life in service to her goddess. The more the witch underestimates parental responsibilities, the more hurt and angry the boy, Lump, becomes. Gruber cleverly weaves elements from familiar fairy tales into a saga that moves across forest, earth, and sea. But even more astute is his portrayal of the characters, especially Lump and his mother, who, locked in their own selfishness, must fight through disappointment, hatred, and anger to find forgiving love. This can be read at several levels, but those who plumb the deepest will reap the greatest reward. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This is a truly lovely, old fashioned, fairy tale with all the trimmings: Witches, Ogres, Talking Animals, Magic, and Great Characters.
I don't want to go into details. But the story begins when a boy who is misshapen is left for the witch. She calls him Lump and takes him home. Since she knows nothing about raising children she gets a bear to do the job.
We later find that Lump's upbringing does not prepare him to live in the world of people and has various adventures trying to grow up.
I also don't want to give away the ending, but any astute reader will probably guess it soon enough.
This is a very enjoyable read for anyone who likes a good story with good characters, magic or no.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As Lump grows, he struggles to find his own magical powers and his relationship to the other humans nearby. In the meantime, his foster mother has the same problems as working mothers everywhere: how to balance her time between tending the Midsummer fires and caring for her child. The witch, who is more powerful than Lump understands, is mystified by motherhood. She thinks, "I have always known what to do; I see the Pattern clear as my own hand, and I follow it and am content. But there is no guide here, and every path I can see leads to some pain. Perhaps this is part of having a child; the Pattern is of no use, and there is this aching in my heart."
Soon enough, disaster strikes, and Lump, the witch, and Falance hit the road. Robbed of her powers when she makes the ultimate sacrifice for her child, the witch must find a new life for herself: "It is the case that I cannot be both a mother and a witch, or not the sort of witch I was." In the meantime, Lump grows more distant, demanding, and hard to love. Fashioning themselves as The Faeryland Outcasts, the three perform magic and meet dozens of characters who will be vaguely familiar to readers from other fairy tales.
THE WITCH'S BOY, though, is far more than a fractured fairy tale. Although many of the characters, settings, and situations are borrowed from folklore, the complexities of plot and theme go far beyond simple fairy stories. The conflicted relationship between mother and son, the psychological pain inflicted on the boy Lump, the ways all the characters must step out of themselves to find friendship and love, the unexpected places where magic is found --- all these elements elevate THE WITCH'S BOY from a simple fairy story to a haunting, fully developed tale of magic, mystery, growth, and love.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
Thus Lump is sent on a journey through many worlds and many places. After losing what he truly loves, he hides himself behind a mask of gold and surrounds himself with riches and blames everything on his mother. After abusing life he is cast from the world only to be given a second chance in which he finds himself and the people who truly love him.
Michael Gruber writes about very strong emotions and creates very strong characters. His book has many twists and turns and you never know what's around the next bend.
I would recommend this book. Although it is a bit slow in the beginning it begins to get more and more interesting, and slowly but surely it lures you in. My favorite part of this book is how he incorporated all the other fairy tales and gave them his own twist.
But The Witch's Boy has its weaknesses. It's ostensibly a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but when it finally reaches recognizable aspects of that tale they're hurried and fairly plain. Lump's redemption, which ends the book, is likewise. Thankfully his isn't quite an instantaneous fix, but what makes the rest of the book remarkable is the well-paced, realistically rendered growth of Lump's character. Redemption wouldn't defy his wickedness if it were given the same care--but as it's not, it makes for a weak ending to a book that's otherwise strong. Thankfully, the ending alone doesn't ruin the book and--given the reader's well-fostered interest in the cast's well-being--the happy ending is emotionally satisfying. And so much of the rest of the book is worth reading, creative and compelling, utterly engaging, realistic and true, and presented in fluid, half-transparent, half wryly insightful prose, that I still enjoyed and recommend it. I don't want to oversell this book, it's not my new favorite, but I'd never heard of it until finding it at a used bookstore and it was an unexpected delight that I'd love to pass on to others. It has numerous flaws, but there's plenty to defy them and make The Witch's Boy a clever and engaging read.
The infant child adopted by a witch...raised by a bear...with the lovingkindness that we would all wish for for any child.
The characters that we meet...some are fairy tale characters...you find out the true story of Hansel and Gretl from their own mouths (certainly not the story we remember as children).
The love of a mother, the rebellion of a child, the greed of adults and the compassion of others. And, finally, well, that I will leave to the next reader of this book to savor.
The book is magical, entrancing.
I am happy that I read it.
I hope that you will be too.