The Witches: The Graphic Novel – Pénélope Bagieu

Roald Dahl was my favourite author when I was a kid. I’ve read four of his books so many times over the years I’ve lost count: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and The Witches. I could also pretty much ruin each of the movies (the originals, if they‘ve been remade) for you by telling you every line before they happen.

I loved searching for witches when I was a kid. Sure, I knew that this story was fiction but it was fun to play ‘what if’ and check to see if women walking past me were wearing gloves or scratching their head, or if their teeth had a slight bluish tinge.

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Although I was really interested in reading this graphic novel adaptation, I was nervous about it too. I’m a bit of a purist where childhood favourites are concerned; while I’m mostly okay with minor changes, I don’t want you to mess with my cherished childhood memories.

I’m happy to report that the story I know and love remains intact here. Sure, there are some changes but none that make me want to point at a specific page number in the original book and demand that it be changed back because it ruined the story.

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I’m sure I’ve missed some because it’s been a few years since I last read The Witches but the changes I noticed straight away were:

  • The story takes place in England, not Norway
  • Grandmamma and her grandson aren’t white (loving this!)
  • Bruno Jenkins is a girl, whose name I still don’t know. Her surname is Jenkins and she has much better lines than Bruno did
  • The Grand High Witch now says “remove” rather than “rrree-moof” and “wigs” instead of “vigs”
  • Formula 86 is hidden in a different location in the Grand High Witch’s room
  • There’s gambling at the hotel (whose name has changed) and mention of yoga and organic food
  • Grandmamma’s conversation with the Jenkins’ has a different outcome and happens at a different time in the story
  • Grandmamma ends up going into the kitchen to find her grandson rather than him meeting her back in the dining room
  • The Jenkins family now stays in touch with Grandmamma and her grandson.

There were only a couple of things from the novel that I missed in the graphic novel. While the story of the girl in the painting is explained well in the graphic novel, the other early witch stories are only mentioned briefly. Also missing was Grandmamma telling her grandson how many beats per minute a mouse’s heart beats (500!). Neither impacts the story at all. They were simply a couple of my favourite bits as a kid.

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As a decades long Roald Dahl fan, I wholeheartedly approve of this adaptation. Besides the story remaining true to form, I also loved the illustrations. The Grand High Witch looked different unmasked than she does in my memory of the book and original movie but she was fantastic nonetheless.

I definitely need more Roald Dahl graphic novel adaptations.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Witches are real, and they are very, very dangerous. They wear ordinary clothes and have ordinary jobs, living in ordinary towns all across the world – and there’s nothing they despise more than children. When an eight-year-old boy and his grandmother come face-to-face with the Grand High Witch herself, they may be the only ones who can stop the witches’ latest plot to stamp out every last child in the country!

This full-colour graphic novel edition of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, adapted and illustrated by Eisner Award winner Pénélope Bagieu, is the first-ever Dahl story to appear in this format. Graphic novel readers and Roald Dahl fans alike will relish this dynamic new take on a uniquely funny tale. 

The Once and Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow

Spoilers Ahead! (in the content warnings)

Once there were three sisters.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January was my favourite read of 2019 and The Once and Future Witches is my favourite read of 2020. I know there are still plenty of pages to fall in love with this year but trust me, friends, this is the one!

The wise one, the strong one and the wild one. There’s a bit of each of us in at least one of the Eastwood sisters; hopefully all three. This is a story of sisters and suffragists. Of fairytales and the power of words. Of survival and sacrifice. Of transforming the story you were given into a better one. Of “witchcraft most wicked”.

The wayward sisters, hand in hand,

Burned and bound, our stolen crown,

But what is lost, that can’t be found?

Sometimes you read a book that feels like it was written with you in mind. Sometimes characters will draw you into their world and you feel like they’re kin or, at the very least, kindred spirits. Sometimes a story speaks to your soul in such a way that when you lift your head after the final page you are certain you grew wings while you were reading. That’s just some of what this book was for me.

I want to ramble about characters, surprises and heartbreaks, love found and battles waged but, consistent with other books that have so deeply worked their magic on me, this review is more personal. Sorry if this isn’t the review you were looking for.

Don’t forget what you are.

As I read I felt my spine straightening. My will strengthened. My courage blazed. My heart opened, warming and knitting itself together, even as it broke. My tears threatened many times before the inevitable ugly cry (it was so ugly!). This was the perfect book for me at the perfect time.

I made a deal with myself weeks before I started reading. I had a really difficult task ahead of me and I wanted this book to be my reward for completing it. Not allowing myself to dive in before I won my battle was its own special brand of torture but knowing the witches were waiting for me spurred me on. Being able to finally immerse myself in the lives of Agnes, Bella and Juniper was worth the wait. And then some.

I now have a task equal, if not greater, to face than the one that preceded it but this book has fortified me and given me the courage I need to shine a light on the next shadow on my path.

Together they dared to dream of a better world, where women weren’t broken and sisters weren’t sundered and rage wasn’t swallowed, over and over again.

I can’t wait until someone I know has read this book so I can get all gushy about the specifics. Until that time, a warning: if you see me out in the wild, prepare yourself. Our interaction is likely to consist of me emphatically telling you to “Read this book!” as I shove it in your face. Protect your nose accordingly.

“Maleficae quondam, maleficaeque futurae.”

Content warnings include “Child abuse, both physical and psychological; parental death; arrest and imprisonment; mind control; pregnancy and childbirth, including forced hospitalization; racism; sexism; homophobia, both external and internalized; threat of sexual assault, averted; torture (mostly off-the-page, but alluded to); execution (attempted); child abandonment; major character death.” The author lists these on Goodreads. I’m adding to these the mention of abortion, on page death of an animal, physical abuse of an animal and sexual harassment.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, for the opportunity to fall in love with this book early.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters – James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna – join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.