I was introduced to Allan Stratton’s darkly funny middle grade adventure The Grave Robber’s Apprentice last year when reading the books nominated for the 2013 Silver Birch awards. This one is similar in tone and just as creepy (maybe creepier).
Today’s Pick: Curse of the Dream Witch
by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada, 2013
From the publisher:
It is the age of the Great Dread. The Dream Witch wants the heart of Princess Olivia. Until she has it none of the kingdom's children are safe. Olivia's parents seek help from the Prince Leo of Pretonia and his uncle, the Duke of Fettwurst, but the treacherous duo seize their castle instead. It is up to Olivia to defeat the Dream Witch, Prince Leo and his uncle. She makes a daring escape from her turret cell and races to the forest to take on the Dream Witch in her underground lair. Two friends are by her side: the peasant boy Milo and a curious talking mouse with a surprising past. Together they must face danger and fantastical adverseries to lift the Great Dread, save their families and rescue a kingdom.
There are some pretty creepy elements in this story (including the witch, who has with eyes like burning coals) but lots of funny bits too. The quick pace got the main characters moving along on their adventure right away. There were a couple of places where I got confused about where the characters were exactly, but it didn’t detract from the story. It was fun to notice all the connections to traditional fairy tales while reading. There were also lots of fun details like pysanky (decorated eggs). But you might not want to read this before bedtime, because of some of the disturbing images it might conjure up.
I admired the voice and was impressed by the way the author wrote with a sense of humor and fun even with all the scary images and events in the story. It seems like a tricky balance to pull off, but in this novel it was successful. The voice will definitely help this book to appeal to its target readers.
“It was the twelfth year of the Great Dread.”
“Imagination is a powerful thing,” Ephemia said darkly. “What we believe—what we think we know—can destroy us.”
“Life isn’t fair,” the Dream Witch shrugged. “And that, my pet, is the scariest nightmare of all.”
Allan Stratton lives in Toronto with his partner and 4 cats.
Curse of the Dream Witch is a finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards in the Silver Birch category.
Last year, his novel The Grave Robber’s Apprentice was also nominated for the Silver Birch award. You can read my thoughts on that book here.
Other books by this author include:
The Grave Robber’s Apprentice
For more, visit Allan Stratton’s website.