Heading back to my roots this week and offering up some reviews of great graphic novels for Teen Read Week. I might be a week late, but the celebration never ends! And today is a two for one deal…you get a review of Molly Ostertag’s The Witch Boy AND The Hidden Witch (which comes out Oct. 30th).
Title: The Witch Boy/The Hidden Witch
Author(s): Molly Knox Ostertag
Publisher: Scholastic (2017/2018)
Age Rating: 7+
Like many of the books that I review, The Witch Boy has been sitting on my shelf for some time, waiting to be reviewed. So when I received an advanced copy of The Hidden Witch from Scholastic, I knew it was time to pull out the DuoReview!
In preparation, I read both books, and I contacted Molly Knox Ostertag to see if I could get an interview for my Storytelling series. She said yes! And I decided to make the end of week a celebration of these books and the amazing work of Ostertag. Today I review both books; tomorrow, I post the interview.
So enjoy, and come back tomorrow for the interview!
Tackling both books at the same time is a bit of a breeze because they lock together like a finely crafted puzzle. The Witch Boy came out about one year ago, and I’m glad I had not read it since reading them back to back not only allowed me to get more story at one time, but the natural progression of the series makes the first book even better.
The series follows a boy named Aster, born into a family that wields magic. The women in the family train as witches, and the men as shapeshifters; however, Aster, not feeling the whole shapeshifter thing, wonders why he can’t learn to be a witch like the women in the family.
This basic concept shapes the plot of the two books, but it’s not the plot that makes these books special…it’s the characters, their interactions, and the subtle thematic elements that create the magic.
I dug the characters in the first book, and yes, most of them also appear in the second, but the background and development of the first book allow the characters in The Hidden Witch to really come into their own fairly early in the story. The friendships are relatable, but what I like the most about the interactions in this series is the honest and innocent way that Ostertag drops in our themes and morals; she does not heavy-hand the message like a good number of Middle Grade books might.
We feel Aster’s want and desire to be something that society does not want him to be. We understand the outcast. We appreciate the plight of the underdog. Ostertag allows us to discover our own feelings as Aster and friends develop over the course of the two books, and the subtle approach can have a positive impact on readers young and old. This is how we reach people: with honest, realistically-paced experiences that allow us to open up to each other. I see these books being used to create conversations about life, love, friendship, and acceptance.
The art is simple, but not childish. Big panels and big colors fill the pages with interesting splash and single-panel pages sprinkled in every now and then. The backgrounds of the pages swap between white and black, depending on the story being told, and while simple, the art opens conversations of analysis; this is a great book to toss younger ones into a discussion of the art decisions that Ostertag makes. Teachers, bust out that graphic novel term list, and get to teachin’! And if you need a graphic novel term list, hit me up!
Get these books. They are a great pick-up for the Halloween season and beyond…
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