Reviews of The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber

The Witch's Boy

by Michael Gruber

The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber X
The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 377 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2006, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Michael Gruber has created a world that is at once deceptively familiar and stunningly original, a world of cruelty, beauty, legend, truth, and above all, wonder. Readers will delight in the author's ingenious retelling of classic fairy tales and will marvel at the stunning new tale of a boy raised by a witch, a cat, a bear, and a demon. Ages 11+.

A wondrous journey through the realms of magic

They call him Lump. Ugly, misshapen -- more goblin than human child -- abandoned as an infant and taken in by a witch, he is nursed by a bear, tutored by a djinn; his only playmates are the creatures of the forest, whose language he learns to speak.

But when Lump inevitably stumbles into the human world, his innocence is no match for the depths of people's cruelty, which turns his heart to stone, and fuels a vengeance that places him and his witch mother in deadly peril. Yet these disasters also send Lump on a journey of self-discovery, to realms deep within the earth and far beyond mortal imagination.

In this stunning fantasy debut, Michael Gruber has created a world that is at once deceptively familiar and stunningly original, a world of cruelty, beauty, legend, truth, and above all, wonder. Readers will delight in the author's ingenious retelling of classic fairy tales and will marvel at the stunning new tale of a boy raised by a witch, a cat, a bear, and a demon.

Witch

Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a woman who lived by herself in the middle of a great forest. She had a little cottage and kept a garden and a large gray cat. In appearance, she was neither fair nor ugly, neither young nor old, and she dressed herself modestly in the colors of stones. None of the folk who lived nearby (not the oldest of them) could tell how long she had dwelt in that place.

One spring morning, the woman set off to collect some plants she needed. As she glided silently along, she studied a list she had made, for she tended to be absentminded about small things. She passed the old oak tree, lightning killed and half hollow, where the local people were accustomed to leave things for her, and there she heard an odd little cry. She stopped and looked, and saw that in the hollow was a wicker basket. Have they left me a piglet? she wondered. But when she came closer, the basket shook and she heard the unmistakable cry of a...

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Reviews

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I was particularly keen to read Gruber's book with the children (aged 9 and 11) because the opinions of the mainstream reviewers are quite mixed.  For example, Booklist gives it a starred review saying 'from the hypnotic mask on the cover to its perfect fairy-tale ending, this astonishing fantasy compels readers onward,,' and the Guardian (UK) describes it as 'a brilliantly woven plot for ages 12-16. However, Publishers Weekly felt that 'the languorous pace and muddled message will likely make it off-putting to teens', and Kirkus thought the main character to be 'one of the least sympathetic characters readers will ever meet in literature' - which isn't a criticism per se, but equally will not have people rushing out to buy a copy!

We listened to The Witch's Boy as an 8 hour audio book read beautifully by Denis O'Hare.  Undoubtedly a good reader can turn literary straw into gold, so part of our opinion is probably colored by the exceptional reading. However, even without this I believe we would have been hooked by this elegantly plotted story that can be understood at many levels, and thus can be enjoyed by many ages - and yes, I can well imagine many teenagers will see a bit of themselves in Lump, and perhaps that's not such a bad thing!  I wholeheartedly recommend The Witch's Boy for young teens and also, as we discovered, it's an excellent choice for family car journeys (most audio books get passed on but we'll be keeping this one to listen to again)...continued

Full Review (354 words)

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Media Reviews

BookBrowse - Davina
We (our children aged 9 and 11, and myself) listened to The Witch's Boy on audio and were riveted. It's an elegantly plotted story that can be understood at many levels, and thus can be enjoyed by many ages. I thought it an exceptional book and disagree with the reviewers who found the central figure of Lump to be unsympathetic - I think that many a teenager will recognize themselves in him! Not only is this a great book for teens but, as we discovered, the audio book makes an excellent choice for family car journeys (most audio books get passed on but we'll be keeping this one to listen to again).

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The tale of Lump's many grievous errors is told in an artistic and stately style, with an objective yet compassonate tone that creates a weight of sympathetic regret within the reader. Within the story traditional fairy tales are told as both history and local folklore.

Time Out New York Kids
Animals speak, spells are cast, dark forces seduce , and a foundling becomes a man in Michael Gruber's The Witch's boy.... Gruber writes with simple but picturesque language and the fractured fairy tales from the witch's POV are a delight...but it's the joyous and deeply felt conclusion that readers will savor most.

The Guardian (UK) - Dina Rabinovitch
A witch finds a howling and repulsively ugly baby in the woods. She adopts the child, pampers him and gives him a bear as a nanny and a genie as a servant. When the genie tricks the child into setting him free, the witch is in trouble. She and the child run away. A brilliantly woven plot intertwines with twists on well-known fairy tales. Ages 12-16.

Booklist - Ilene Cooper
Starred Review. Gr. 6-9. From the hypnotic mask on the cover to its perfect fairy-tale ending, this astonishing fantasy compels readers onward....This can be read at several levels, but those who plumb the deepest will reap the greatest reward.

Kirkus Reviews
One of the least sympathetic characters readers will ever meet in literature, Lump is going to make many a teen, preteen, or for that matter, parent uncomfortable - and there's plenty of grist for fans of Donna Jo Napoli's fairy tale psychodramas, too.

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
Intertwined with fairy tales...the plot is clever, the characters interesting. The strong voice and twisted variations of old tales will appeal to anyone who likes fairy-tale retellings.

Publishers Weekly
Inventive details such as Lump's cradle, which rocks itself and croons lullabies, will charm, but the languorous pace and muddled message will likely make it off-putting to teens. Ages 14-up.

Reader Reviews

Shelly Clark

Better than Harry Potter
Best book I’ve read in a long long time. What a amazing captivating imagination this author has. This book kept my attention and imagination going through the whole book until the very end and. has me wanting more. Thank You Michael Gruber!
CJ

Very entertaining
I loved this book. I am always looking for something fun and I like fairies and magic and this book filled the bill. I will read his other books!
Josh Novak

The Witch's Boy
The Witch's Boy for me was hard at the beginning because Lump seemed so negative, but after further reading I began to realize how this was implicated in the story. I also enjoyed Michael Gruber's play on folklore and how he references many of the...   Read More
Laurel Bremiller

The Witch's Boy
I thought this book to be a very fun filled fairy tale. Ranging from magical spells to animals talking, and turning them into different forms of life. Michael Gruber did an excellent job telling a story of a young boy named Lump, his life growing up,...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Although Tropic of Night was his first book in his own name, Gruber was Robert Tanenbaum's ghost-writer for many years (they are cousins). However, his credit was limited to a thank you on the acknowledgements page so eventually the relationship dissolved - Resolve (2003) was the last Tanebaum book Gruber wrote.

In 1996 he started to write The Witch's Boy but was unable to find a publisher, so he turned to adult fiction, publishing Tropic of Night and Valley of Bones, which were both well received.  In 2005, almost 10 years after he first wrote it, The Witch'...

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