Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Witches - What You Need to Know About Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker

Pros: Crazy take on witches; great story; mice are awesome!
Cons: Never.

The Bottom Line: Need to know the real story about creatures that are called witches? Then this is the story for you!

I’ve had this book…oh, forever. Actually the one I have now used to be my sister’s. Of course, if you look at the picture above, that’s what is coming out now (and the one I’m sending to a child in need of a good book – not my 20-year old copy). I’ve always loved the story (and honestly, the movie adaptation is pretty good too) and I figured it could be something a kid would enjoy as much as I did.

Witches do not ride around on brooms. They don’t wear black cloaks and wear pointy hats. REAL witches look like ordinary women, out and about just like anyone else. There are a few things you can look for, and if you notice them, be sure to steer clear – especially if you’re a child! One little boy knows all about these things through his grandmother. When the two take a trip and stay in a luxurious hotel, he notices a few things about the group of ladies staying there. They seem to all be witches! But what can one boy do against so many witches, especially once he gets caught! You’ll have to read to find out.

I loved Roald Dahl’s wacky, completely different take on witches. Instead of the typical Wizard of Oz, Halloween style witch we have all come to known, Dahl’s witches are ghastly creatures that seek only to rid the earth of children. Ambitious yes, but they have a lot of scary and strange methods of doing it. The stories the grandmother tells the boy are very imaginative, as is the rest of the story. It’s so much fun and it leaves you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Read this to your kids and just watch their little eyes go wide as they hang on the words. His description is great; everything is so vivid, some of it might make you all cringy and other times you'll smile and giggle. It's written in first person, so you get the whole story from the boy who lived it, which makes for a neat take - especially when you find out what happened to him!

I particularly loved the ingredients that go into Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker (loved the name of the potion as well). I thought it was all very ingenious, really. The end of a telescope to make the child grow smaller? An alarm clock set to a specific time to make sure the change happens right as scheduled? I want to also mention the dialect put on the Grand High Witch’s dialogue. I always thought it was great and I never had a problem reading it. Her whole manner is perfect for the character. She’s mean – even to her own fellow witches, the way a really nasty character should be.

You get illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. He’s got a weird little style to his drawings, but it gives them character. They’re a bit Shel Silverstein-ish if you’ve ever seen his work. If you find a book that doesn’t have these illustrations, I suggest looking for a book that does because they’re a lot of fun. ….And his mice are so cute.

As a child, this was a great book. As an adult, this is a great book. I recommend it to anyone of any age. It could give your kids a bit of a thrill, but if they can handle Harry Potter then heck, this is just kid’s play.



This review was a part of the September 2007 Fight Illiteracy Write-Off hosted by hadassahchana of Epinions. This book was sent to a child in need of a bit of literary magic.

Originally published on

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