The Little Witch, by Otfried Preussler, translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Winnie Gebhardt-Grayler; The New York Review Children’s Collection, $15.95, 131 pages, ages 6-9.
This spooky story is set on Walpurgis Night, or “Witches’ Night”, which takes place on April 30 in Central Germany. Legend has it that on the highest peak of the Hartz Mountain range, witches gather for an annual nocturnal revelry. All the witches attend, except for Little Witch, who, at 127 years old, is still too young to attend. (At least according to her nasty Aunt Rumpumpel.) Readers will enjoy joining the plucky little sorceress and her faithful Raven, Abraxas, who go forth and prove their worthiness of joining the group by embarking on all sorts of wild adventures. Preussler (1923-3013) continues to be one of the most popular children’s book authors in Germany, and his books have been translated into fifty-five languages. It’s easy to see the enduring appeal: Preussler writes in the tradition of the Grimms, and Bell’s translation is quick-paced and a delight to read. Longtime Preussler collaborator Gebhardt-Grayler’s pen and ink illustrations capture the humor and sensitivity of the text. This classy reissue by New York Review is sure to enchant little readers in search of unlikely heroes. A lovely Halloween treat.