Book Review: “The Witch’s Handbook” by Malcolm Bird – 4/5

4/5 – You should be reading this

An excellent children’s book that will double as a fun source of information and craft ideas for practitioners.The only thing that kept this from being a 5/5 is that it’s clearly a children’s book and written about your stereotypical Halloween style witches. (Which is the point of the book after all.)

I requested this book through my library along with a dozen others. I didn’t even glance to see what genre it was before requesting it. I was only slightly disappointed to see it was a children’s book. (I like to read kids’ books so it wasn’t completely a waste but I was hoping for a text). It’s a quick read since it’s a children’s book (probably for ages 8-10? I’m not good at guessing appropriateness for children). The art is what I fondly call “comic strip style” in that it has a quirkiness similar to what a local comic artist uses.

The first thing to say about the book is that it’s was written in the UK so you’ll have to adapt all recipes, knitting patterns, and read the folklore bits with this in mind.

The book starts out as something of a “hey, this is what a witch’s kitchen looks like”. Again, since it’s written as fiction, it’s not meant to be accurate but it kind of is. There were a few times I outright laughed because, yeah, that’s totally a witch.

The further you read the more interesting the material becomes. Recipes are offered with a witch theme to them. I didn’t have a chance to try any of them but they could be excellent for a party or just for the fun of it.

Spells make an appearance. They’re short and sweet but since I’m familiar with English folklore and superstition, I recognized that the spells are taken from folklore directly or adapted to be more accessible. This is followed directly by tidbits of folklore and old wives’ tales which are always excellent sources of witchcraft information.

Other things of note in the books is that there’s a ton of craft ideas. Knitting, quilt making, and general crafts all make appearance. They’re very stereotypical Halloween crafts I’d say but they could be really fun to try with children or in autumn. I’m definitely going to adapt the knit fingerless gloves into a crochet pattern. (And by adapt I mean wing it because I can barely read a crochet pattern so forget about knitting which I can’t even do.)

Overall, I found the book a fun read and certain kind of “truth in fiction”. Clearly the book’s written to be about your stereotypical media images witches, which while having problematic origins, is rampantly common. I liked the book and plan on picking it up to keep around my house for when kids come over or I have to babysit. Practitioners with children might find this a fun way of including and educating kids in their belief and practice without making it patently obvious or boring.

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