18 November 2007
Were it not for the fact that I wanted a holiday book for Book of the Week (and that I adore The Ugly Pumpkin,) Arthur Yorinks' The Witch's Child would have been chosen. And if my daughter made the decisions on this blog, you can guarantee that this book would have gotten the nod. She liked it so much that she asked me to read it twice tonight, at the expense of a chapter of Meet Samantha.
So here's the story: for reasons known only to herself, the rather nasty witch Rosina decides that she would like to have a child. So she makes herself one and names her Rosalie. She gives the child a room full of toys and anything her heart could desire (but being heartless herself, how would Rosina know anything about 'heart's desire'?) When Rosina cannot find a way to bring Rosalie to life, she discards her; no "Gepetto Parent of the Year" awards here! Then, to accentuate her nastiness, Rosina turns local children into thorn bushes. All seams dire until Lina, "an inquisitive girl," wanders into the witch's house and finds the abandoned Rosalie. She cleans her up and plays with her. A little love goes a long way, as the witch discovers too late.
The message of the book is fairly clear; love makes us real. It is a theme we have seen in The Velveteen Rabbit, and even fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow white, where a kiss literally restores life. No wonder my daughter wanted to hear it twice. But as the parent reading this book, I came away with a completely different message. The final line of the story, in describing the return of the children who were turned into thorn bushes, is, "With Rosina gone, her clouds departed, and finally, in the sun's embrace, the bushes that were children were children again, and their parents loved them and were thankful for them and properly cared for them, as well they should." Bad parenting is rampant in this book, from the dodgy rationale behind Rosina's parental urge, to Lina who "strayed too far from her parents". Well, it would seem that she strayed too far, just as the thorn bush children were "lured away," because the parents were not paying attention. So for me, the message is "Love 'em or lose 'em." Be thankful for your children, because they are gifts, not rights.
Gee, maybe this is a holiday book after all.