Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Whispering To Witches

Whispering To Witches

Anna Dale
12 and up
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2004   ISBN: 1582348901

Joe’s Christmas is looking decidedly unpromising. He was supposed to be spending it with his Dad, eating too much, watching the T.V, and taking his dog Hamish for walks. Instead he has to go to Canterbury to spend the festive season with his Mum, his stepfather, and his stepsister Esme.

As it happens his holiday turns out to be far from ordinary. The strange happenings start on the train as he begins his journey to Canterbury. At first everything is as it should be, but then things begin to get decidedly peculiar. First of all Joe sits next to a woman who makes him feel “horribly afraid.” Then he sees what looks like a snake appear from another woman’s handbag. The whole experience is quite unnerving, and Jo is so unsettled that he ends up getting off the train too soon and finds himself in the wrong train station.

At this point, the situation takes a rapid dive into the realms of the downright bizarre. Before he quite has a chance to figure out what is happening, Joe finds himself in a house full of witches. One of these witches, a girl called Twiggy, takes pity on him and even after he is returned to the normalcy of his mother’s home, Twiggy remains a part of his life.

The reason this happens is because it soon becomes clear that Joe is somehow involved in some highly dangerous and rather sinister witch business. An elusive piece of paper appears to lie at the heart of the problem, and yet it is far from clear how the pieces of the puzzle all fit together.

With Twiggy beside him, Joe sets about trying to figure out the mystery, stumbling as about in a world of magic that is quite alien to him and that could prove his undoing.

With a compelling plot that is full of unexpected twists and turns, characters that are quirky and charming in their crack potted-ness, and a delicious writing style, this book is a delight to read and very hard to put down. Anna Dale has created a book that presents magic and magical beings in a highly credible and sympathetic way. We believe, we want Joe and Twiggy to prevail, and we can only hope that we will get to meet these two characters and their peculiar friends again soon.