The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011


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Author: Brian Jacques


Page Length: 373


Reading Level: 6.9


Genre: Fiction, Adventure


Career Connections: None           

PLOT SUMMARY: Badgers, mice, weasels, squirrels, and a bird, take on human characteristics and battle the wildcat, Tsarmina to get possession of Mossflower.  Tsarmina becomes the Queen of a Thousand Eyes after poisoning her father and imprisoning her brother.  She forces the Woodlanders to work for her as slaves.

When Martin the Warrior meets Gonff (both mice) in the dungeon of Kotir, the two plan an escape.   With the help of other creatures of the forest, they go on a quest to locate Boar the Fighter.  As they cross the country, they develop friendships that support each other, despite their differences.  They exhibit respect for the older animals for their knowledge and cherish their history. 

Tsarmina’s soldiers and Martin and his Woodlanders eventually engage in a fierce battle while Gonff, the Mousethief, sings a song for every event. As the story concludes, good rules over evil.REVIEW: This is an animal fantasy that is full of action.  There are heroes, villains, adventure and romance with all of the characters, created quite descriptively with many human qualities.  The book is a prequel to Redwall, the first of the multiple book series.

The book would be an excellent class novel to read when studying cultural differences, as it shows how the animals, with varied differences, demonstrate the ability to get along in a diverse community.  Gonff’s poetry could be used to help students write short poems.  The food the animals eat sounds simply delicious and students could create recipes.

The writing is descriptive with lots of action and adventure.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls.


AREAS OF TEACHING: Simile/Metaphor, Characters, Setting, Descriptive Writing, Poetry, Cultural Diversity, and Personification

RELATED BOOKS: The Redwall Chronicles (20 books), Redwall Picture Books (2 books), and The Tribes of Redwall Series (3 books)



MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: Redwall: The Movie (TV-2000), Redwall: The Movie (to be released 2011)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


March 12, 2008

The Witches

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The Witches

Author: Ronald Dahl

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

Page Length: 208

Reading Level: 5


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Ronald Dahl writes an exciting story about witches, a grandmamma, and her orphaned grandson that kept me enthralled as he did in my previous reading of his book, The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me.  Once again, by looking and reading the cover, I thought this book would be a bit juvenile for the high school student.  However, barely into the first chapter, my attention was captured by the imaginative descriptions Dahl uses in writing a story about witches.


The setting of the story is in Europe, in the countries of Norway and England.  The narrator, a 7-year old boy from England, goes to live with his grandmother who lives in Norway after his parents are killed in a car accident.  Dahl avoids the entire issue of the parent’s dying and quickly establishes the bond that develops between the boy and his story-telling, cigar smoking grandmamma.


Grandmamma loves to tell stories, especially about witches.


Unlike the stereotype image of a witch in black who flies on a broom, across the shadow of a full moon, grandmamma tells her grandson the characteristics he should know about the witches of Norway. First of all, they have no toes, just square feet. They always wear wigs and gloves because they are bald and have no fingernails.  Grandmamma warned him the nasty women had large nose-holes with amazing smelling powers, especially for clean children.  The pupils of their eyes are not black but change colors from fire to ice.  The final characteristic was that their spit is blue. 


The boy had a hard time believing these facts about witches, but he was convinced they had to be true, as his grandmother was the “nicest” person he knew and attended church every Sunday.


The old woman and boy move to England to fulfill the wishes of his parent’s will.  However, grandmamma suffers a case of pneumonia which becomes very serious.  She does recover and at the end of the school term, the odd twosome goes on vacation to Hotel Magnificent in Bournemouth.


This is where the adventure begins.  Whiled training his two pet mice, the boy accidentally gets caught in a meeting room of lovely women called “The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.”    He became intrigued watching them as they all began scratching their heads as if they had nits.  Then, one lady actually scratched so hard her head of hair moved.  A wig!  It only took him a few minutes of observation to realize they actually weren’t lovely women. When the revelation hit him that he was in a room full of witches, he fainted!


As the boy continues to spy on the witches’ meeting, he learns of their plans to destroy all the children of England.  As the meeting comes to a close, one of the sharp-nosed witches smells him.  He is trapped and along with Bruno, another boy staying at the hotel falls prey to the group.


The boys are not killed but their identity changes.  They are able to escape the horrific women and make it back to Grandmamma’s room.  Here, the boy and grandmamma devise a plan to sabotage and destroy the witches.  Grandmamma is quite clever and mischievous for an 82 year old woman.  It is her goal to destroy the evil women of England then, all witches of the world.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book is fun and entertaining.  It could easily be made into a movie.  An idea for teaching sequencing would be for students to illustrate the gory events. I also think it would be a good read aloud book or to be read as a class.




REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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