The Witch's Boy

by Michael Gruber

This fractured fairy tale begins when a witch finds an ugly baby left in a basket... read more

This fractured fairy tale begins when a witch finds an ugly baby left in a basket on her doorstep. Not sure what else to do, she takes him in and names him Lump. Cleary she knows little about caring for a child. The witch turns Lump over to a bear for nurturing, and a jinni for teaching. She also prevents him from having any contact with the human world. But Lump becomes more and more curious about children in the nearby village as he grows. Eager for playmates, he finally sneaks away to join them, only to discover the cruelty of the human world when he is locked in a basement and tormented because of his looks. Lump feels betrayed not only by the children but by his mother the witch for keeping the truth about his looks a secret. His heartbreak turns to bitterness, and the boy becomes thoughtless, cruel, and self-centered, which in turn leads to tragedy. Lump, the witch, and her familiar, a cat, must flee for their lives before the villagers arrive to burn them. Lump’s complete disregard for anyone but himself is stunning; over and over he puts their lives in danger. Finally, as Lump approaches manhood, he and the witch part ways. It is only when Lump is on his own that life begins to shape him differently. He gradually discovers that love is the only thing more powerful than anger, and forgiveness is a gift that begins inside oneself. It is a startling, transcendent, wholly believable transformation in Michael Gruber’s fascinating novel that also breathes intriguing new life into familiar stories as the narrative weaves in fresh perspectives on Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and other classic fairy tales. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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