Review: The Witch Boy
On the surface, Witch Boy is a fantasy story about a reclusive family who practice magic. But below the surface, it’s a story of gender roles. Whether or not readers will dig that deep is entirely up to them. Whether or not they discuss it, again, is up to them. But young readers will have an exciting adventure story to enjoy.
The Witch Boy By Molly Knox Ostertag.
Scholastic Graphix. 2018. ISBN 9781338089516
PBK, $12.99. 218pp.
Grades 4 and up
In Aster’s clan, the girls practice witchcraft and the boys shapeshift. Aster, a boy, hasn’t been able to shift, and he has an intense interest in witchcraft, but whenever he tries to learn, he’s shunned and sent out to play or be with the other boys of his clan.
When a shapeshifting ceremony goes awry, and Aster’s cousin goes missing, Aster uses some of the witchcraft he’s picked up on to help find him. While his cousin is missing, Aster goes out walking and befriends Charlie, a young girl from a nonmagical family who has broken her leg. Aster feels comfortable with Charlie and is able to share his deepest thoughts and secrets with her, including his magical gifts. But when the demon monster reaches out to Aster, he will have to show his family that his true desire is witchcraft. Will they come to terms?
While the storytelling feels a bit rushed in the end, overall this is a really sweet and exciting story. The rich artwork and lush colors lay the groundwork for an eerie and magical setting. Readers will feel Aster’s discomfort and his out-of-sorts feeling with his drive to find a place he fits in. The strong part of this story is Charlie and her friendship with Aster. This is a solid choice for reading.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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