I’ve already reviewed quite a few amazing witchy books this year: Undead Girl Gang, Begone the Raggedy Witches, How to Cook a Princess, and The House with Chicken Legs. I really wish I could have included all of them on this list as well, but I only had so many slots. For a girl like me who has been obsessed with the “dark side” since an early age, I had quite a few long-time favorite witch books that I just had to celebrate this year:
5. The Witching Hour by DC Comics
There were far too many writers and artists on this horror anthology comic book series to list them all, but the talent on this book was incredible: Neal Adams, Marv Wolfman, Wally Wood, Gil Kane, Gerry Conway, Bernie Wrightson, and Alex Toth, just to name a few. Nick Cardy did the majority of the fantastic covers, including the one pictured above. I have a huge soft spot for Bronze Age horror, and this is one of my favorite series (due in no small part to Cardy’s delightfully wicked cover work). I haven’t gone back issue diving in quite a while, but last I saw, these were fairly cheap and easy to find. They are well worth a look — not too gruesome for middle grade and up, and lots of spooky fun.
Unfortunately, DC has only collected this series in one Showcase edition, a giant black-and-white paperback format that I personally detest. I understand the upside to the Showcases — they’re much more affordable for fans and much easier to produce than other formats — but I would give anything for a proper glossy, full-color reproduction of this series.
4. Little Witch’s Zoomin’ Broom by Rosa von Feder and Anoosha Syed
Visit Little Witch School, where the sweet and adorable students are getting ready to ride brooms for the very first time.
I told you it was one of my favorite books! This board book is pure joy — it’s filled with illustrations so sweet you want to pop them in your mouth and a story so delightful that it makes you smile and clap your hands with glee. This book sits next to my desk at home, and I pick it up when I need to take a break or I need some happiness beamed directly into my brain.
If you have little ones 5 or under, you need this book. If you don’t, you need this book. And if you feel weird buying a board book as a childfree adult or as a parent who hasn’t had a toddler in years, I hereby absolve you of any awkwardness. Go forth and buy books that make you happy.
3. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack
On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madam Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.
This decidedly YA+ series from the Archie Horror imprint had me at hello, but what really sealed my fate was the Suspiria reference at the back of the very first issue. It’s one of my favorite horror movies (I even have a huge Suspiria tattoo on my arm), so when I saw that shout-out, I knew I had found a kindred spirit in this new incarnation of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I already knew that, though, because the art and the writing are spectacular. It really is one of the best modern horror comics out there.
Netflix has a TV adaptation of the comic coming out on October 26, and the only way I could be more excited about it would be if they were handing out black cats to subscribers to celebrate the premiere.
2. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare; cover art by Linda Benson
Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind. In her relatives’ stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit’s friendship with the “witch” is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger. She herself is accused of witchcraft!
This Newbery Medal winner is an absolute classic. I remember reading this book over and over again and loving Kit every time for being so strong, confident, and good-hearted in the face of the ignorance and persecution of the ridiculous Puritans in her new community. Reading this book was one of the first times I remember feeling a fierce pride in being different. So thank you, Elizabeth George Speare, for making me feel like it was okay to be a little weird and a little scary.
I think this was one of my top five most re-read childhood books, along with: Harriet the Spy, Matilda, The Westing Game, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I read voraciously in between re-reads of these, of course, but I wore out my little paperback copies of those five books. I had to replace all of them; considering how well I take care of books, that should tell you how much love those titles got when I was a kid.
1. The Witches by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.
Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories — but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!
Roald Dahl is one of the patron saints of this blog, so you know he had to make an appearance on this list. (Edward Gorey is the other; they alternate days so they never get burned out.) The Witches is a delightfully nasty piece of work, with a worldwide organization of hideous witches plotting to kill all the children they can get their monstrous hands on. The witches are so imaginatively grotesque — in that inimitable Dahlesque way — that they are the standard by which I measure all evil fictional witches.
Like the rest of Dahl’s work, The Witches is both horrifying and heartbreaking. As a child, I always appreciated that Dahl was not a fan of the conventional happily ever after; even his sweetest endings are suffused with a sense of melancholy, and this book is no exception.
Well, that’s my top 5. …I know what you’re thinking. “Where’s [fill in the name of your favorite witchy book here]? WHERE’S HARRY POTTER?!” I’m sorry, but like I told you…I ran out of space pretty fast! Feel free to leave me a comment telling me how horribly wrong I am. Let me know your top 5 witchy books, and we’ll commiserate together over how hard it is to narrow our favorites down to such a small list. And be sure to come back tomorrow for more Blogoween fun!