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Only a Witch Can Fly

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  278 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Only a witch can fly.

But one little girl wants to fly--more than anything. So on a special night, with the moon shining bright and her cat by her side, she gathers herself up, she grips her broom tight, and she tries. And she fails. And she's brave. And she tries again. Until . . .

Utterly enchanting, New York Times best-selling author Alison McGhee's lyrical language and T
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Feiwel & Friends
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2010 Caldecott Hopefuls
41st out of 60 books — 155 voters
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79th out of 236 books — 307 voters

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Community Reviews

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The illustrations are wonderful and the best part of the book! They are cozy but "dark" (in color) and perfectly Halloweeny and marvelous and fun and determined.

The story itself is cute enough, about a little girl wanting to fly--but then, only witches can fly, so... is she a witch? McGhee notes in a brief introduction that she has written the story using a "sestina" rhyme scheme made famous by the French troubadours in the 12th Century. Cool! But, um... I did not feel it made for the best chi
Title: Only A Witch Can Fly By Alison McGhee Illustrated By Taeeun Yoo
Rating: No
Summary: A witch takes her first moonlit flight.
Age: 4-6
The illustrations are lovely, evocative. A limited color palate is used: black, green, brown, cream; this illustrates the lure of the moon for the witch in the story.

The premise of the story is clear because of the illustrations but the text doesn’t work as well. The rhyming text is lyrical and poetic but it’s rough and confusing also, with a rhymin
Utterly charming illustrations! Not to mention the fun revisitation of the childhood fantasy of flying.
Only a witch can fly, but one little girl wants to fly—more than anything. So on a special night, with the moon shining bright & her cat by her side, she gathers herself up, she grips her broom tight, & she tries. And she fails. And she’s brave. And she tries again. Until... Author Alison McGhee’s lyrical language & Taeeun Yoo’s linoleum block prints create a bewitching tale about finding one’s own path that will send your heart soaring. (Goodreads summary)

Only A Witch Can Fly by Ali
Call it lyrical, call it rhythmic – few things can split a picture book crowd like poetic text.

Where do you stand?

Some see it as a perfect way to expose young readers to the beauty and flexibility of language, while others see it as (in some cases) ignoring children’s sensibilities in an attempt to appeal to critics and parents (who, after all, are the ones purchasing the book). While I tend to side with the former, I have to admit that occasionally, poetic text can be a barrier to entry for beg
Robert Beveridge
Alison McGhee, Only a Witch Can Fly (Feiwel and Friends, 2009)

There's a great celtic-rock band from Canada called Enter the Haggis that not nearly enough people are familiar with. On their first album, Let the Wind Blow High, back in 1999, there's a song called “Skyswimmer”. On an album full of solid songs, it's my favorite, and I'm telling you about it because if you like this book, you definitely need to check that song out, which covers some of this same ground, though from a much bleaker per
I really enjoyed the muted colors and the sestina form this book followed, but the beauty of it may be lost on children with short attention spans. Still, worth a try for Hallowe'en!
I really liked the illustrations throughout this book; they were haunting but not creepy and faded without lacking color. The black silhouettes were lovely and I liked how she used hues of subtle colors to make the pages rich and dynamic. The illustrations were still playful and imaginative - I liked them immensely. The story was told through poetry, a vestina, which has a certain cadence and rhythm. The ending of the story was a little unrealistic, but didn't pull too much from my enjoyment of ...more
Interesting. Not quite what I was expecting but lovely nonetheless.

I do not know enough about art to know what the style is called but it was my favorite part about this Halloween book.

The text is very different in style from Julia Gillian. I think I might prefer that as opposed to this poetic style but that's OK.

As we can NEVER have enough Halloween-y type slightly spooky stories for the five year olds around my school I may have to add this one to the collection!
Enjoyed the illustrations. The text was a bit difficult and my reader struggled to follow along.
It's ok...nice art work and about a witch wanting to fly. My 4 year old didn't quite get it.
A little girl dressed as a witch wishes she could fly.
My four-year-old son checked this book out of the library last week.

I really, really wanted to like this book, but I just didn't. Some of the phrases are so deliciously lush and strong, but the chosen rhyming scheme seemed to interrupt them and cut the imagery short.

The illustrations were good, but not engaging, and not right for this story. They would work well as illustrative headings in a chapter book, but they felt too mature for the picture book crowd.

My son, who loves books and is an av
I just read this book to two of my daughters, ages 6 and 3, and we were all transfixed. The lines are powerful, using the ancient sestina format beautifully (read the beginning notes to see how complicated this form is). The woodcut engravings are lovely - I love the mix of handmade and vintage included in the graphics. The girl's urge to overcome her flying disability is absolutely palpable, as is her triumph when she ultimately soars. This book is so much more than's about the need ...more
I loved the illustrations in this book but did not like the text. The illustrations stick to a sage green, amber and black color palette and are really lovely. But the text is in the format of a sestina, and the wording is often awkward and would be a bit difficult for kids to understand. The text tries too hard to be poetic, for example, "The moon trails fire through a reservoir and you are earthbound no more." Adults might appreciate it, but kids won't.
28 months - I absolutely love love love the block prints in this book. The colors and the look and feel are perfect for the story. I enjoyed the poetry as well but even after the third or fourth read there are areas that I stumble over and double check as if something's just not quite right. I want to absolutely love this one but I just can't give it five stars if I always question what I'm reading.
Not every author can master rhyming text, but McGhee pulls is off beautifully. Her prose is engaging with a dreamlike quality, not agitating or lacking in depth or simply "sing song" as some rhyming text can be. The story itself is likewise sweet and endearing and encourages readers to embrace their dreams. The artwork by Taesun Yoo deserves equal praise. Together, McGhee and Yoo have created a real gem.
Beautiful phrases and endearing block prints tell the tale of a little girl who wants to fly... on her broom. The poetry tripped me up a bit and didn't seem to flow all the way through the book, yet I am unfamiliar with the poetry type, so may not have had the right rhythm! Still I think picture books should be able to be picked up and read by anyone - those ignorant to poetry styles and those not!
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Don't know what to think about this one. The illustrations seem to suggest that the little girl is a member of a family of witches. But then they could also be interpreted as depicting a family with a highly imaginative daughter who wishes she could fly. I like the nighttime illustrations, but suspect that they may not be correctly interpreting the author's intent in the text. An odd book.
The rhyming was okay, but at times difficult. It failed to completely get into a sing-song rhythm that would have really helped to make the book better. Although the message is ultimately about pursuing your dreams and never giving up, I'm not sure it's fully realized. I do appreciate that it's not written in an expected manner,which would give it a cliche feeling.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the illustrations. She only used a few colors, but I still found that the best part of the entire book was it's illustrations. I would use this as a read aloud during halloween time or during an art lesson about using simple colors.
Award: Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award 2010
Ack, something about this book was too Goodnight Moon-ish for me. A little girl longs to fly on her broom and finally one night in the light of the full moon, it happens. Poetic but in a way that is hard to read to children...the girls tolerated it due to the cool illustrations, methinks!
Davonna Juroe
Great premise, great conflict for a child to relate to, and the language, style and voice are fantastic. This has it all. The author, being a founding member of Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, probably has something to do with it. ;)
Crys (The Hodgenator)
If you have a new reader in your home, I recommend this. I remember my little man reading to me using the pictures in the book.

I collect witchy tales, especially children's books, so I had to have this. Illustrations are fab but the story is just okay.
I liked this book because of the vintage pictures. It was a lot of fun to look at, however the story was lacking. I know that it is book is written as a sestina (a very old form of poetry). So this might be good for a teacher to use for an example.
I stumbled over the style of prose, which a forenote specifies is a sestina. And the story didn't take me anywhere either, but I very much love the design of the book and Yoo's block prints are so very lovely.
Of course, I love things Halloweeny, and though Halloween isn't mentioned in this book, it still fits. I really like the little girl witch's determination, as well as her supporting (and supportive) cast.
This is a very cute book, but the poetic form of the text would be difficult for both adults trying to read out loud to children and for kids reading it on their own. But the pictures are lovely.
David Hankerson
Great picturebook for Halloween! The beautiful illustrations follow the attempts of a young witch to fly. Can she really fly or is it just her imagination? You won't know until the final page.
Christine Turner
A young girl wants to fly like a witch on a broom, and one special night, through enormous effort and with the help of her brother, her black cat, and an owl, she fulfills her dream.
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Alison McGhee is the award-winning author of picture books, poems, and novels for all ages, including the young adult novel ALL RIVERS FLOW TO THE SEA and the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Alison McGhee lives in Minnesota.
More about Alison McGhee...
Someday Shadow Baby Julia Gillian (and The Art Of Knowing) All Rivers Flow To The Sea Snap

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