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Only a Witch Can Fly

3.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  346 Ratings  ·  75 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 Ta
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Feiwel & Friends
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41st out of 60 books — 158 voters
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89th out of 348 books — 355 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 578)
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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
Nov 10, 2010 David rated it liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
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
Sep 28, 2009 Scope rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
Oct 11, 2010 Anna rated it it was ok
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
Ian Wood
Oct 27, 2015 Ian Wood rated it it was amazing
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-
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.
Sep 24, 2009 Emily rated it liked it
Utterly charming illustrations! Not to mention the fun revisitation of the childhood fantasy of flying.
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
Natalie Molnar
With breathtaking, unique illustrations and a genuinely charming story, Only A Witch Can Fly has the makings of a picture book that children will save for their own children. Or rather, it would if not for the text, which doesn't quite manage to work out a smooth, flowing rhyme. The wording could easily act as a barrier for beginning readers, and falters when trying to work with the 32-page picture book format.
Oct 27, 2015 Shianne rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Taeeun Yoo is an absolutely talented illustrator. Visually, everything was phenomenal about this book. However, the story and way in which this book was written, I found to be quite difficult to follow. I often went back a few times to clarify what I had read.
Melissa Mcavoy
Oct 13, 2015 Melissa Mcavoy rated it really liked it
Readers are placed in the shoes of a young witch who yearns to fly on a full moon night. Rhyming text, and beautiful woodblock prints combine in a sweet story of her and her families efforts to get her off the ground.
September Michaud
Nov 01, 2015 September Michaud rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, halloween
I prefer the illustrations to the text, even though it does have a sing-song rhyming quality. Probably wouldn't use for a read aloud, but it just didn't strike me personally.
Apr 20, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
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
I love the artwork and idea of this book, however the story falls flat for me. Regardless, the kids and I still enjoyed the book overall.
Ashlee Draper Galyean
It reads like free-verse poetry. If you're not into that, I think the book might sound a little awkward. I thought it was lovely.
Jun 22, 2011 Angie rated it liked it
Shelves: picture
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.
Oct 21, 2014 Shelley rated it it was ok
Shelves: age-6
It's ok...nice art work and about a witch wanting to fly. My 4 year old didn't quite get it.
Jun 12, 2016 javadiva rated it really liked it
The prose was impressive & unique in its writing. And I love the illustrations!
Katie Hovanec
Dec 19, 2015 Katie Hovanec rated it liked it
It was ok. I was hoping for more words, but the illustrations were beautiful.
Oct 12, 2014 Miri rated it did not like it
A little girl dressed as a witch wishes she could fly.
Aug 12, 2013 Karen rated it liked it
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
Apr 12, 2016 Lacey rated it really liked it
Cute book, nice illustrations, and a good read.
Sep 30, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, kiddos
Girl power with a spooky halloween theme.
Feb 24, 2010 Adriana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
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
Apr 30, 2010 Dawn rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
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.
Sep 24, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 21, 2010 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture_book
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.
Oct 27, 2009 Cassie rated it really liked it
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!
Erin Lee Arvin
Apr 01, 2016 Erin Lee Arvin rated it liked it
I'm split as to what I think about this book. On one hand, I like that it is written in sestina form, which is pretty cool. I don't think, unfortunately, that kids well even recognize that it's something special, or that it's written that way "on purpose," instead of a weird sentence structure that feels odd to them. I also enjoyed the block prints. Not a bad little book.
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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.
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