This time of year, I’m always on the prowl for Halloween stories to devour with my kids. We love spooky Halloween stories and we love sweet Halloween stories. Most of all, we love Halloween stories that evoke the magic of the season. And there’s something particularly enchanting about witches and full moons and black cats. That’s why I’ve chosen the charming ONLY A WITCH CAN FLY for my Perfect Picture Book pick of the week.
Title: ONLY A WITCH CAN FLY
Written by: Alison McGhee
Illustrated by: Taeeun Yoo
Square Fist, 2009, Fiction
Fun for Ages: 3 and UP
Themes/Topics: Halloween, magic, witches, imagination, longing, persistence
If you were a young witch, who had not yet flown,
and the dark night sky held a round yellow moon
and the moon shone light on the silent broom
and the dark Cat beside you purred, Soar,
would you too, begin to cry,
because of your longing to fly?
Brief Synopsis (from publisher):
Only a witch can fly.
But one little girl wants to fly—more than anything. So on a special night, with the moon shining bright and her cat by her side, she gathers herself up, she grips her broom tight, and she tries. And she fails. And she’s brave. And she tries again. Until . . .
Utterly enchanting, New York Times–bestselling author Alison McGhee’s lyrical language and Taeeun Yoo’s transcendent linoleum block prints create a bewitching tale about finding one’s own path that will send your heart soaring.
Only a Witch Can Fly is a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Why I Admire This Book: Take a lyrical story about a girl who longs to fly, set it under the full moon of Halloween night, and add breathtaking, evocative woodcuts, and what do you get? Magic! I think readers will identify with this girl in a witch costume (striped socks and pointy black hat, no less) who longs to fly like a real witch. They’ll also see themselves in her frustration when her first attempts at flying fail. This tale is also about the value of perseverance. And magic, of course.
(Amazingly, this story is written as a sestina – a form of poetry that started with the French troubadours in the 12th century!)
Ideas for Teachers: In addition to being a fun seasonal read, this book also works beautifully to start a discussion regarding the importance of perseverance. During a unit covering forms of poetry, ONLY A WITCH CAN FLY might also serve as a lovely model of a sestina. Older students (3rd to 5th graders) might also enjoy creating their own block prints after reading this story. For instructions on making block prints with kids, please see http://artcuratorforkids.com/making-art-with-kids-block-printing/.
(For a LOOONNNG list of links to picture book reviews, along with resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)