October 16, 2014 § 4 Comments
“Mommy, you know how those witch hats got there?” my four year old casually ventured, as we walked through the Halloween section of our local variety store. Then, before I could answer, she stopped and turned towards me, her expression suddenly serious. “The witches dropped them,” she whispered.
I love October. Not for the costumes, or the weeks of planning that go into them (read: daily changing of minds). Not for the candy, which I can never get out of the house fast enough. I love it for its air of anticipation. That mysterious, slightly uneasy, could-it-might-it-be-real feeling that pokes at the back of our minds. As the evenings darken, the wind picks up, and the creaks on the roof grow louder, the lines between real and imaginary begin to get a little messy. You might say that for these few weeks, we get a taste of the way our kids feel all year long.
Indeed, many of my favorite “Halloween” stories to share with my kids are, in fact, not about Halloween at all—which means (hooray) that they can be enjoyed all 365 days. I’m referring to gems like Creepy Carrots, The Monsters’ Monster, and Vampirina Ballerina. This year’s newcomer is I Am a Witch’s Cat (Ages 2-6), by Harriet Muncaster: a simple picture book narrated in the voice of a little girl, who loves to dress up like a little black cat, because she believes her mother to be a witch (“but I don’t mind, because she is a good witch”). On each page, the girl presents proof of her mother’s witchiness: her bathroom is filled with “strange potion bottles…that I am NOT allowed to touch”; “when we go shopping, she buys jars of EYEBALLS and GREEN FINGERS”; and “whenever I hurt myself, she MAGICS it all better.” The gag, of course, is that this proof is entirely in the eye of the beholder. As the pictures subtly reveal, the potions are actually perfume bottles, the green fingers are pickles, and the boo-boo magic comes straight out of a first-aid kit.
It’s no surprise that my Emily has fallen under the spell of this book—and not just for the joke in it (which on some days I think she totally gets, and on others I’m not so sure). Emily sees herself on every page. In the hours between the time I pick her up from preschool and the time we head back to get her brother, she is my sidekick, my buddy, my little helper. She doesn’t normally don a kitty costume (preferring her tutu with superhero cape), but she does all the same things as the little girl in the story: helping me stir my brews in the kitchen; unloading our grocery cart of mysterious jars; and listening to my fellow moms and I cackle as we “swap spell books.”
Oh, but I’m not even to the best part yet (although maybe you’ve gleaned it from the photos above?). First-time author-illustrator Harriet Muncaster has crafted her book out of miniatures: assembling dioramas of paper, fabric, and mixed media and then photographing them. If you know a lover of doll houses—or perhaps someone whose fists are often full of tiny panda figurines or paperclips she’s rescued from the sidewalk—then I think you can guess why this book is Pure Magic.
Oh, and it turns out that this book strikes a chord with me, too. On the occasions that, like the mom in this story, I get dolled up and leave my kids with a babysitter, who’s to say that my “me time” doesn’t entail trading in my car for a witch’s broom and casting off freely into the night? Perhaps the next time I’m out, I’ll drop my tall black hat for some little girl to find—someone who won’t have any trouble imagining the adventures this hat has seen.
Other Favorite Stories About Witches:
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Ages 3-6)
Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman (Ages 3-6)
A Very Brave Witch and The Sweetest Witch Around, by Alison McGhee & Harry Bliss
Old Black Witch!, by Wende Devlin & Harry Devlin (Ages 4-8; this wonderful 50-year-old classic is finally back in print—get it before it goes out of print again!)
What the Witch Left and No Such Thing as a Witch, by Ruth Chew (Ages 7-10, chapter book)
The Witches, by Roald Dahl (Ages 8-12, chapter book)