Old Black Witch

(Note:  We’re taking a break from our alphabet books today so that I can review my son’s birthday book selection.)


Written and Illustrated by Wende and Harry Devlin

Aladdin Books, 1963

Nicky and his mother had made a long trip to New England.  They didn’t have much money and they wanted to buy an old house to turn into a tearoom.

The plot in a nutshell:  A mother and son buy an old house and find a witch living there.  They turn the house into a tearoom and the witch initially fights them, but eventually helps them out.

I finally found the book that my son requested for his birthday review.  Old Black Witch is another one of those books that I’ve had since I was a little girl.  Here’s what he said about it:

Old Black Witch is one of my favorite books from when I was a kid. The best part was when you’d read with the voice of the witch. For some reason, I also loved the idea of converting the house to a tearoom, and the witch’s delicious pancakes helping everyone get along and saving the day!

I absolutely loved reading this book aloud to the kids when they were small and Dan has already clued you in as to what made it so fun.  The witch has a ton of great lines that are just amazingly fun to read in a creaky witch’s voice.  As she comes around and starts helping in the tearoom, she even has a few short songs she gets to sing.  She’s just a really fun character to share with kids.

There are so many patterns in this picture - the quilt, the pitcher, the pillow...but my eye keeps going back to the spoon in her hat.

There are so many patterns in this picture – the quilt, the pitcher, the pillow…but my eye keeps going back to the spoon in her hat.

The artwork in this book is also excellent.  Some of the pictures are minimal, with simple drawings of characters on a white background, while others are full page illustrations with vivid color and detail.  When two burglars show up to rob the tearoom, the drawing of them silhouetted against the night sky as they sneak up on the shadowed house is really striking.

This book was one of several children’s books written by the husband and wife team of Harry and Wende Devlin.  Wende was responsible for the story and Harry did the artwork, but they always listed themselves as a team on the book’s cover.  They married in 1941 and first began collaborating on a comic strip called Fullhouse about life with their seven children.  In the early 60’s, they moved on to picture books and Old Black Witch was the first of more than 20 books they wrote together, including two sequels to Old Black Witch.  This book includes the recipe for Old Black Witch’s Bewitching Blueberry Pancakes.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that it’s hard to stay enemies with someone who makes you feel included in their lives.


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