Friday, February 18, 2011

A Witch in the Family, by Zilpha K. Snyder

First published in 1973 by Lutterworth Press

Also known as The Headless Cupid, A Witch in the Family is a short, breezy little book that depicts what happens when the Stanley children meet their new step-sister, Amanda. From the moment she arrives at Westerley House, with a crow and a horny toad, 'witchy' garb and her small upside-down smile, things begin to happen. Family things. Paranormal things. Growing-up things. For while Amanda announces she is studying the supernatural, the real story here is how the dynamics change when two families become one family, and everyone has some adjusting to do.

This book was recommended to me as a Newberry Honour book, and I really did enjoy it. The tone of the story-telling reminded me so much of the books I devoured as a kid - those sort of hidden away ones at the library which are always older than the rest and what I tended to resort to when I had read everything else or the book I wanted wasn't there. Of course, these are the ones which then kept me in the lounge room chair all weekend, and that is just what this book reminded me of - deceptively simple, funny, engaging writing for children, that is a joy to read and decipher.

I think this book won me over because I feel it captured how kids talk and relate to each other, and the little unit that is the Stanley children feels like a real set of siblings that squabble and play in the backyard together and know all the little things about each other that only siblings can know. When Amanda is introduced into this set, we see them being distrustful and awed and fascinated and accepting and negligent all at once, and watching them suss each other out is really quite delightful.

I like the way Snyder tells this story, there is just something very quaint and winning about the way she introduces ideas and scenes through the main character, David. Amanda has the potential to be quite unlikeable, and certainly her attitude in general doesn't make for the most charming of characters, but I think the way she is written is spot on. As an older reader looking back, I find all her little looks and snide remarks and the way she conducts herself so familiar, and can understand why she does it. And, of course, she does come right in the end.

As for the ending, I felt a little let down by it, maybe a bit cheated, but then Blair's last revelation made it alright again. A lovely little book that will both amuse and enchant, snap it up if ever you should be so lucky to find it.

1 comment:

  1. It was one of those books that i grew up reading and to this date it remains my favorite. The only thing i remember about reading this book is sitting in the chair outside, with my grandfather sitting beside me reading his newspaper. But sadly, i remember the story only vaguely. I would just love to read this book again, not only for its story, but to relive those times that i spent with my family while reading this book.