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The Children's Bookshelf: Witch Hazel - October 30, 2022

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Witch Hazel written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle is an intergenerational story of immense beauty about the magic of storytelling. Hazel, the grandmother, shares family stories with Hilda, her granddaughter, in a most unusual way--------with the help of a magical broom!

In the Spring while sitting on the porch, Witch Hazel stirs up a story lived by her at the request of young Hilda. Grandmother’s story comes forth when her magical broom begins to make beautiful circular movements. Hilda is captivated to see this. The reader will also be captivated to see grandmother’s story come forth visually as curling white lines and twinkling stars work their magic.

In the Summer grandmother tells Hilda what happened when she, as a young girl, sat at the piano and made music along with a singing bird that came in through an opened window. Again, the family story is told through magical white illustrations coming from the broom. The broom looks very much like a paint brush when it brings forth the stories.

The Fall story is full of details about grandmother’s days as the ‘’belle of the ball” which also includes a glass slipper.

In the Winter, however, grandmother, is now very old and very frail. Grandma asks Hilda to tell her a story. “So Hilda told one…and another…and another…from the beginning …to the end.”

Witch Hazel fascinatingly written and gorgeously illustrated by Molly Idle is a triumph of storytelling. Families and readers 5-8 years of age will enjoy reading this book together (Little, Brown and Company) 2022.

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for Witch Hazel

The magic broom is important to this story because it holds all the grandmother’s family stories. You probably do not have a magical broom, but do you have items that hold a family story? These things could be a framed picture of a family member on a wall, an extra- important toy from your toy box, a greatly loved book, an old hat that is and always will be your favorite, a special candy dish or perhaps a special dish of food that your mother makes for you. Think about it. Then draw a picture of this special thing and write a few sentences as to why it’s part of your family memories.

Older Children: In the next Spring after grandmother has died what happens to Hilda? Take a close look at the last four pages and study the illustrations. What does Hilda find when she dusts the outside stairway? Who visits Hilda? What is the cat doing? Where is the bird?

The illustrations are beautifully cast in a rich but soft tan color throughout. If wildly bright colors were used to illustrate this picture book how would it have interfered with the story itself?

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.