Monday, October 4, 2021

Review - Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest

Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest

by Phoebe Wahl
Date: 2021
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 96
Format: e-book
Source: library

An earthy and beautiful collection of four stories that celebrate the seasons, nature, and life, from award-winning author-illustrator Phoebe Wahl.

Little Witch Hazel is a tiny witch who lives in the forest, helping creatures big and small. She's a midwife, an intrepid explorer, a hard worker and a kind friend.

In this four-season volume, Little Witch Hazel rescues an orphaned egg, goes sailing on a raft, solves the mystery of a haunted stump and makes house calls to fellow forest dwellers. But when Little Witch Hazel needs help herself, will she get it in time?

Little Witch Hazel is a beautiful ode to nature, friendship, wild things and the seasons that only Phoebe Wahl could create: an instant classic and a book that readers will pore over time and time again.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Little Witch Hazel hearkens back to another era of picture books. You won't find any bright colours or sleek lines here. Instead, the coloured-pencil textures evoke the spirit of some early picture books by author-illustrators such as Wanda Gág. The book includes four short stories, one for each season. In "The Orphaned Egg", the diminutive witch finds a rather large egg in the woods and takes it home to keep it safe. In "The Lazy Day", Little Witch Hazel has chores to do and can't understand how everyone else has so much free time. In "The Haunted Stump", the witch and her friends try to figure out the mystery of a strange howl that's permeating their usually placid forest. And in "The Blizzard", the tiny witch provides healing care to the inhabitants of the forest, only to be caught unawares by a blizzard... at which point the stories come full circle with a resolution that's simple yet satisfying.

I'm not entirely sure how a book like this will play to a modern child audience. As an adult, though, I found it charming, with decent writing and good messages. I enjoyed the little details in the illustrations (such as Little Witch Hazel's hairy legs) and found the limited colour palette refreshing.

Overall, this is a strong picture book. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy stories about witches of the non-spooky variety, as well as to those who like picture books with a more classic feel.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

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