sarafem's Reviews > The Witches

The Witches by Roald Dahl
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Jun 29, 2007

did not like it
bookshelves: royally-sucked, juvenile-7-to-10

I would love to know why I am the only person on the planet who did not like this book. I tried to find some bad reviews on GoodReads, but the only one and two star reviews said things like "Bad no like mousey! dlksk djglsk diewqls!" I'm assuming they were in a foreign language and not written by a kid who could not type, but I was too lazy to click on the profiles. Maybe I should learn the language and go live there, where we can all unite in our hatred of this book.

It seems to me that 90% of the reviews said things like "Scared the crap out of me as a kid, but I like it now." Except...this is supposed to be for kids? So why give it five stars when children can't read it without being frightened?

As an adult I see that this book is about the power of imagination and the triumph of good over evil. I get it. As a teacher and a mother, I think it's the author's perverse attempt to terrify little kids. It's really funny as a grown-up to think about how you hated certain teachers and thought of them as witches; this book brings childhood nostalgia back for this reason. As a kid, though, you end up terrified that you'll see a violet glow in your teacher's eyes if he or she gets short or loses patience with you. I do enough scaring of children just by getting my job done; I don't need a book around that's going to convince kids that I am about to eat them too.
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02/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Abigail, I'm severely disappointed that you aren't more acquainted with Roald Dahl. The Witches was a favorite of mine as a kid, although James and the Giant Peach is his greatest. One of the reasons Dahl is so endearing to me (the same reason he's been lambasted in the past) is his fearlessness in portraying adults as pure evil.

message 2: by Alexandra (new) - added it

Alexandra Interesting to hear your thoughts Sarafern. I haven't read it (yet). I did like the movie version, but I know that's not necessarily the same - and I watched it as an adult. I do see (from the movie) how the story would be scary for young kids.

Wendy Well, I'm not crazy about most Roald Dahl for various reasons, but this is one of my favorites--probably my favorite after CHARLIE. Yeah, it scared me as a kid. I LIKED being scared. That's why there's such a big market for scary kids' books--and this one has the advantages of being clever, well-written, and meaningful besides. I remember being intrigued by the "yes, but" happy ending.

message 4: by Alexandra (new) - added it

Alexandra You have a point Wendy, a lot of kids enjoy a good scare.

Suri This is the first chapter book I read and probably for that reason it is on my all time fav's list...But, it is a really good book regardless

message 6: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Great review, although now I kinda have to wonder if I was riding the shortbus to school since most of what I loved as a kid was Judy Blume, Junie B. Jones and the like.

message 7: by Ula (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ula even as a kid (and i was 8 years old) i understood this book was humorous and written with no intentions to fright someone, so i'm confused.

Juliet Your review is ridiculous. Please know that everyone understand you're a witch in disguise trying to undermine this book so you can kidnap kids and eat them again.


Lydia I have read it and thought about it, listened to the audio [one of them], and discussed books with fellow people who read it, are re-reading, don't want to finish it. All inclusive book people I suppose. Read and re-read timelessly since I was little. Children's fiction doesn't need any more circular meandering banning. If we and our children are happy to read a book - any book - can we not be proud of them for their enjoyment?

Satia Although I appreciate Dahl's subversive tone, I have to say that I found this book misogynistic and distasteful. My review won't go "live" until Monday but I wanted to say . . . you are NOT alone.

message 11: by Connie (new)

Connie I don't know, I wasn't scared of this book as a child, I loved it.

I *was* scared of The House With a Clock in its Walls (perhaps I should have read it at noon instead of midnight...?) but I wanted to be a little scared. That was part of the fun!

message 12: by Ebehi (last edited Dec 19, 2010 02:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ebehi I read this book as a child and maybe I am weird, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Because I knew it was a children's book, with illustrations. And no matter how horrible the witches were, I knew the author would not let them go scot free. I was a bit scared but it certainly didn't give me nightmares, or make me think that all women, or adults are evil beings out to get me. It just made me understand that there ARE bad people in the world, and we shouldn't be afraid to fight them because it would always be well worth it.

Freddy Wow! If this book scared you as a kid then you must've been a real wimp!

Dahl's storytelling of The Witches was superb and always played with the scenario of 'what-if'. Imagining that the real reason your teacher was so mean was because she was a witch and that she could be defeated made school a little more bearable for some kids.

message 14: by Connie (new)

Connie Freddy wrote: "Wow! If this book scared you as a kid then you must've been a real wimp!

You know, Freddy, you can say "This didn't scare me, I don't think it's frightening for all children" without going straight for the rudeness factor. Different children are scared of different things - and this book is *intended* to be a little frightening, albeit in a fun way. There's no call for you to insult somebody just because, as a child (or an adult, even!) they disliked a book you enjoyed. If you think there *is* such a call, I suggest you grow up.

Yoana Most children's stories are frightening. It's normal, it's part of the palette of emotions they learn about through reading. I read it as a tween, it was scary but exciting.

message 16: by Barb (new) - rated it 5 stars

Barb S. This became my son's favorite book after his teacher read it aloud. Kids do like being scared. This is no more intense than a typical Disney movie.

Also, love this comment:
Julie Fevang: Your review is ridiculous. Please know that everyone understand you're a witch in disguise trying to undermine this book so you can kidnap kids and eat them again.


Abigail Actually, I read it last year in fifth grade.
I loved it.

Edmund Davis-Quinn Childhood is scary, it's part of why Dahl is amazing. Still seems like you like the book as an adult.

message 19: by Owen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Owen Stickings I agree with everyone who has made the point that it's ok for a child to read a book that frightens them. You see that as a negative but I think as others have commented that children should experience all emotions including fear. It scared me when I was younger but I'm fine.

I would hate my child to b in your class if u want to repress their emotions and imagination. I don't think they need to read this book to make up something like u r a witch when u r being strict their young minds will do that by itself.

I guess the issue I have with your review is that you have given it 1 star and judged it harshly because it is scary not that it is poorly written.

Mayb u r a witch and just don't like the fact that Dahl has given away all your secrets {0_o} were onto you! :)

Jenny I was absolutely scared of everything as a kid. A documentary about the loch ness monster could keep me up for weeks at night. When i read this book, however, it did not scare me at all. I liked the grandma and was okay with the kid but I don't see why you people found it so scary. I was 7 when it was read to me though.

Merete Bøye Children should learn from an early age that all the world isn't kind. Most of what children read and watch today is stuff like Sesame Street and Twilight, which teach them that a monster or vampire is really just a friend you haven't met yet. That way we teach our children that the world is a safe place and everybody is a good egg once you get to know them. It will be a harsh awakening for them, when they find out as adults that there really is evil in the world. I think they will feel betrayed by their parents for not instilling any sort of wariness in them.

Somerandom Children secretly loved to be scared by something. It's fun. It's why we have amusement parks and horror houses and scary movies.
Roald Dahl's books are often from the perspective of a child. There are undertones of creepiness and are often scary but that's part of the fun.
As a child, I absolutely hated adults who would sugarcoat things simply because I was young. I felt they didn't take me seriously and I was genuinely offended.
This is what I loved about Roald Dahl's books. He didn't sugarcoat things, he didn't tone things down because he thought I wouldn't be able to handle it. He took me seriously as a person and gave me a piece of entertainment. The very fact that you can appreciate the messages and the book as an adult, I think, speaks volumes of how talented Mr Dahl was as a children's author. (By the way, I got the message as a kid. Kids, contrary to popular belief, are not stupid!)
Yes, his books are scary, but it's also heavily influenced by fantasy and whimsy and wonder, which can soften the blow, so to speak.

message 23: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy Cheney What's NOT to like. Ronald Dahl's classic story telling style works on children's fears and perceptions of adults. Witches, much like The BFG, does a great job of demonstrating this yet again.

Englisharchaeologist its not meant to scare people.It's a really good work of fiction on Dahl's part. so stop posting things like that and understand the purpose of the book!

message 25: by Nana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nana Julie: haha

Although you do have a point, this was the book i ever read (actually, it's pretty much how i learned to read) and i loved it, but my mom tells me that for days afterward I kept pulling on her hair and making sure she had toes.

message 26: by Hana (new) - added it

Hana Husakovic My 6 year old is reading it in class and whilst she enjoys the story (apparently?!) she has become fixated on and terrified of witches! To the point where she will not ho to her room/bathroom/anywhere away from us as soon as it is dark!

I'm reading the book for the first time and rate it highly for its storytelling, but I can see why she is scared

Daphne Julie is right.

Carolina Imhof I was never scared of Roald Dahl's (kids) books because for me they were FUNNY! wicked funny, but for me definitely not scary (too absurd to be scary)! It's a shame not everybody gets to enjoy them, but that's life...

message 29: by Iris (new) - rated it 1 star

Iris I hated this book too.

Hannah My 4th grade teacher read this book to my class and I remember thinking it was a little scary, but I loved it. I guess it just depends on the age group and the child.

message 31: by Sveta (new) - rated it 1 star

Sveta Simonova you are not the only one) the same with me

message 32: by kindle king (new) - added it

kindle king ok

Ariadne It didn't scare me as a kid, and I still enjoy it as an adult.
To give a bit of context--I never watch horror movies, because to me feeling genuine fear doesn't count as entertainment. But books/movies like this, that just give a "taste" of fear, just a delicious "bite" of it, I really like.

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