Cover image for The witch's guide to cooking with children
The witch's guide to cooking with children
McGowan, Keith, 1968-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt and Co., [2009]

Physical Description:
180 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Eleven-year-old inventor Sol must recover his self-confidence if he and his eight-year-old sister, Connie, are to escape the clutches of Hansel and Gretel's witch, to whom they have been led by their new stepmother and the man they believe to be their father.
General Note:
"Christy Ottaviano Books."
Reading Level:
710 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.7 4.0 134190.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.4 7 Quiz: 52077.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Mystery/Suspense
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



When Sol and Connie Blink move to Grand Creek, one of the first people to welcome them is an odd older woman, Fay Holaderry, and her friendly dog, Swift, who carries a very strange bone in his mouth. Sol knows a lot more than the average eleven-year-old, so when he identifies the bone as human, he and Connie begin to wonder if their new neighbor is up to no good.

In a spine-tingling adventure that makes them think twice about who they can trust, Sol and Connie discover that solving mysteries can be a dangerous game--even for skilled junior sleuths.

Author Notes

KEITH MCGOWAN has worked most of his life as an educator. He helped run an elementary after school program and day camp, taught mathematics and science, volunteered for a year as a teacher in Haiti, and tutored students who were unable to attend school full time. An avid traveler, Keith began writing The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children , in Himachal Pradesh, India, staring at the Himalayan mountains, and continued working on it in Boston, New Orleans, and Chicago, and Vienna, Austria, where he now lives with his wife. The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children is his first novel for children.
YOKO TANAKA is the illustrator of several books, including Sparrow Girl . She lives in Thailand.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Nothing is what it seems in this contemporary spin on Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. Sol, an 11-year-old sci-tech buff, and his sister Connie, a mischievous 8-year-old, are new to the town of Schoneberg. Things feel awry in their new home. Especially puzzling is their strange neighbor, whose dog carries an odd-looking bone, and their parents' suspicious behavior. After conducting some library and Internet research, as well as a daring exploration of their neighbor's house, they realize the horrifying danger that they are in. A nasty confrontation leads to a tension-filled escape that requires their full wits and courage. Evoking Roald Dahl's The Witches, McGowan's edgy debut novel incorporates magic, clever references to the original tale, a cast of diverse characters, and Snicket-esque narration. The witch's interspersed journal entries, including the opening chapter, How to Cook and Eat Children: A Cautionary Tale by the Witch Fay Holaderry, breezily, and ominously, set the book's dark tone. Periodic shadowy illustrations add unsettling eeriness to this open-ended story that will likely draw fans of shivery, suspenseful mysteries.--Rosenfeld, Shelle Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

McGowan makes a strong debut with this contemporary recasting of Hansel and Gretel, starring 11-year-old Sol and eight-year-old Connie Blink. Based on the notion that today's parents could be tempted to deliver their children into the hands of a cannibalistic witch, the story relies on Sol's intelligence, scientific acuity and talent for research, as well as Connie's subtle cunning, deviousness and confidence in Sol, to defeat their parents' plot-and, eventually, the witch. A spine-chillingly humorous opening by the witch-"Derek was a great disappointment to his parents. He didn't disappoint me, though... baked with secret ingredients, and served with my very yummy, homemade key lime pie"-alerts readers to the upcoming dangers; the later revelation (again, for readers only) that Mr. and Mrs. Blink are not who they seem adds further suspense. Tanaka's sophisticated shaded-pencil drawings, presented in full-page bleeds and plentiful spot illustrations, create a disturbing, mysterious aura and enhance the sense of danger. Shades of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket hover over McGowan's tale, but up-to-date touches such as cellphones and the Internet make it especially accessible and appealing for thrill-seeking readers. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-When Sol, 11, and Connie, 8, move into their new house, they discover that their neighbor isn't all that she appears to be. In Keith McGowan's contemporary version (Holt, 2009) of Hansel and Gretel, listeners are given a glimpse into the macabre and outlandish activities of Fay Holaderry, the neighborhood witch, and her dog. Brought to Grand Creek by their new stepmother and the man they believe to be their father, Sol and Connie begin unraveling the mystery of their strange neighbor and the hidden secrets of their own lives, and soon become caught up in a somewhat precarious series of events. Included in the narration are snippets of the witch's own diary, adding to the eeriness and sometimes humorous mood of this modernized classic tale which fans of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl are sure to appreciate. Laural Merlington brings Fay to life, giving her an eerie air of aloofness as she retells the cannibalistic tales of capturing and cooking her unsuspecting victims. She adds just enough tonal variation to distinguish the other characters, and her clear and almost melodic tone makes this an overall enjoyable listening experience.-Amy Joslyn, Fairport Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter SOL AND CONNIE Monday SOLOMON AND CONSTANCE Blink--Sol and Connie for short--moved into the town of Grand Creek one hot day in the middle of August. Sol was eleven and Connie was eight. The late afternoon sun streamed over the mountains into Sol's new bedroom as he unpacked. He'd already taken out a telescope and a microscope. These allowed him to peer into other worlds, large and small, that sometimes seemed more appealing than this one. He examined the instruments, his hand at his chin, his long hair falling in front of his shoulders. He unpacked a box of science books next, checking their titles as he ordered and stacked them. Most of the books looked advanced, almost like what scientists might have had on their own shelves. Sol, you see, was a very smart boy. His intelligence, however, hadn't helped to make him the number one most popular boy at his old school. Popular slots two to one hundred had also been taken. Sol may have been remembering his old school just then, because his lips twisted into a grimace. Maybe he was even remembering his worst day ever. Last spring. The Terrible Day . . . He didn't know that an even more terrible day lay ahead for him. The next box Sol opened held a curious device, which he removed carefully. The device was something he had made himself. It had a CPU--central processing unit--at center and an octopus of wires attaching the CPU to meters and a screen. That screen displayed, in order, the temperature, barometric pressure, time, and, based on all of that information, a guess at the current weather. The screen showed, "82°, 855 MB, 4:02PM," and "SUNNY," which were all correct. Sol smiled and breathed a quiet snort. He set the device gently on the windowsill, then turned to his other boxes. In one, he found his mother's old scientific treatise, yellowed and tattered. A talented scientist, Sol and Connie's mother had traveled many years before to study warming in the Antarctic. There she'd made a discovery of great importance: The ice shelf was melting at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, she discovered this while standing on the ice shelf, which, as predicted, melted and fell into the ocean. She was never heard from again. Though her results, radioed in, did survive and were hailed by the scientific world. Sol spent a few minutes paging through his mother's work, then his eyes fell on the thing that lay below it, a plaque that his sister, Connie, had given him last spring. The plaque read: MANY OF LIFE'S FAILURES ARE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT REALIZE HOW CLOSE THEY WERE TO SUCCESS WHEN THEY GAVE UP--THOMAS EDISON. He turned the plaque facedown and placed it in a spare box with some old books. After some time he confronted one unlabeled box, all taped up, which he didn't open. Instead, he pushed it into the farthest reaches of his new closet, as if he never wanted to see it again. Then he went out of the bedroom to see how the rest of the moving was going and what his younger sister was up to. Connie was very different from her brother. She was outside the two-story apartment building at that moment beside the moving truck. She'd climbed onto her family's sofa as it was being picked up by two of the movers. So that the movers carried both the sofa and Connie across the lawn and into the small building, with Connie sitting up very queenlike and slowly waving, first left and then right, to an imaginary audience of onlookers. Those onlookers were, in her mind, watching her brilliant and important entrance being carried into her new home. In the hallway outside the apartment, one neighbor did open her door to look out. Connie honored the neighbor with a wave and an elegant nod. To look at Connie enjoying herself that day, you would never have known that she was keeping a guilty secret from her brother. But then, you couldn't tell how much she missed her old cat, Quantum, either, and she missed Quantum very much. It wasn't that Connie didn't feel sad about her cat, or guilty about the secret she kept from her brother. It's just that she wasn't one to mope. As to what she looked like, Connie was spry and flexible. She had very short hair and big ears that stuck out on either side of her small head, possibly made like that to let certain comments pass quickly into one and out the other, spending as little time as possible in between. Comments, for instance, like her father's outburst when the movers carried not just the sofa into the apartment but Connie too. "Connie! Get off that couch this instant!" Mr. Blink said. Mrs. Blink--who had married Sol and Connie's father just before the move--looked up from unpacking and shook her head in amazement. Connie was the tiniest bit slow in responding to her father's order, though. So that she slid off the sofa just after the movers put it down, completing her grand ride in style. Sol was coming out of the bedroom then and saw that his father and stepmother were upset. He ducked into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of ice water--it was very hot that Monday--then came out and said, "Connie, want to go to the park?" Connie nodded. "Dad, can we go?" he asked. "Anything that gets you out of here," Mr. Blink answered, "is fine with me." Sol and Connie found a Frisbee and a tennis ball in one of the boxes lying in the living room. Before they left, Sol saw his glass of ice water, now mostly ice, on the counter and had the idea to teach Connie something. "Come look at this." He took her into the kitchen, poured some more water into the glass, and added a couple more ice cubes. "I'm going to mark the level of the water." He found some masking tape and used that to do it. "Now, when we get back and the ice has melted, will the water be higher than it is now, or lower?" "Higher," Connie said. "Why?" "Because when the ice melts, there'll be more water, so the water will go up." "Are you sure?" "Yes." "Are you willing to bet on it? Do you have any money?" Connie checked. "Three dollars." "Will you bet the three dollars?" "Sure, I'll bet you three dollars the water'll be higher," she said stubbornly. "What do you say? You say it'll be lower?" "Nope. I say it will be in exactly the same place after the ice melts. Want to take back your bet?" "No!" Connie said, not one to give in. Connie also wasn't one to lose a bet, though, especially if it involved her own money. So she made sure to sneak back, as she and her brother were leaving, to pour just a little more water into the glass. Then she caught up with Sol. She suspected that he knew more about this scientific matter than she did. But he didn't know enough to win three dollars from her. Of that she was certain. Excerpted from The Witch's Guide by Keith McGowan. Copyright (c) 2009 by Keith McGowan. Published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher. Excerpted from The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.