The Witches is a simply smashing children's book written by Roald Dahl, first published in 1983, with illustrations by Quentin Blake sprinkled throughout. The version published by Puffin Books in 2001 is just 201 pages long, including the marvellous illustrations. You're bound to have an enjoyable afternoon while reading it, and if you don't, why then, at only 201 pages (including illustrations, don't forget) it's over so quickly anyway that you can read something else the same day!
The story begins:
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS. That is why they are so hard to catch.
You will be warned quite thoroughly of the danger of witches in the first chapter. Witches, you know, love getting rid of children and spend all their time plotting to do so, even while engaged in seemingly normal tasks.
In the second chapter, you will meet the boy, who confides that he has had two (not just one, but two!) separate encounters with witches before he was eight years old! He went to live with his Norwegian grandmother just after his seventh birthday, who is an intriguing individual who tells stories, smokes cigars, and knows of no less than five children who fell afoul of witches. It is from her that the boy learns (and you will too!) all about the sad and varied tales of how those five children met their fates at the hands of witches. Consider them precautionary tales.
Do you want to know how to recognize a witch? Be sure to read Chapter 3! Witches go to great lengths to disguise their witchy features, but you can tell them by their disguises if you know what you are looking for. To learn the disguises, you'll need to read the book. I recommend you do, so you can protect the children you know. Underneath the disguises, witches have curvy claws, baldness, larger nose-holes, pupils that change colour (yes, the pupils, not the irises), no toes, and blue spit. Frightful! And do you know why they have large nose-holes? For smelling with! Children smell absolutely HORRIBLE to witches. Like fresh dogs' droppings!
You are now intrigued, I can tell. I can tell because you are still here, listening. But, if you are here still listening, then you could not possibly have picked up this book yet. So, just a bit more, and then you simply must go and spend that enjoyable afternoon I spoke of earlier. Oh my! What treats are in store for you as you eagerly turn the pages! A magnificent hotel! The Grand High Witch! Mice! A dastardly scheme by the witches to be rid of all the smelly children! And oh, what happens to the darling brave boy who is telling you these stories, it is simply too much!
Be off with you then, for if you are not already reading this book, then I despair of your sense of adventure, fun, and frivolity. I will spend my time far more fruitfully by re-reading this scrumptious book myself and making sure any child I meet knows how to spot a witch themselves.
'You can say that again!' my grandmother cried, giving me another kiss. 'I can't wait to get started!'