The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, 40 pp, RL 3

The Pomegranate Witch, written by Denise Doyen and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler is AMAZING!!! First of all, Doyen pulls of a rare feat in the world of kid's books - she has written a rhyming story that (not since the superb Bill Peet) is glorious! There are no contrivances, no made up words to make the rhymes work, no clunky sentences. She has a true gift for language and her word choices are delightful. Her story is exciting, suspenseful, magical and just plain neat. I read it out loud over and over to students and never got tired of it! Wheeler's illustrations are pure magic as well. Her palette is muted, allowing the red of the pomegranates to pop and her characters are marvelous - every child stands out. While there is a witch and Halloween night is part of the story, The Pomegranate Witch is a book you will want to read all year round.
On the edge of town is a dilapidated farmhouse where a gnarled, old pomegranate tree is filled with lovely, red globes. Rumors drift around the town about a witch who guards the tree, the refrain of, "The Pomegranate, Pomegranate, Pomegranate Witch!" repeating it throughout the book.

The children decide to take on the witch, preparing for battle as:
The Witch watched on, a veteran of siege and kinderbattle,
She'd seen such cardboard lean-tos and she'd heard their raquets rattle.
She knew that soon the gung-ho gang could simply wait no more - 
So, switcheroo, the Witch declared the Pomegranate War.

The battle is lost, but for one small boy who sneaks in and grabs a fruit and the kids devour it with glee. But, "neighborhoods have secrets, passed from year to ear to here." Plucking the tree bare, the witch disappears just before Halloween. The kids all know what this means - the witch's sister, the Kindly Lady, is now living in the old farm house. It is this Kindly Lady who decorates the house, lights up the porch and makes a party for the trick-or-treaters who come to her door, fearless now that the Pomegranate Witch is gone. They leave, happily, each getting a, "big, red, round, ripe pomegranate" in their bags, as the Kindly Lady sweeps up with a broom that looks suspiciously like the one the Pomegranate Witch shoos the sneak-thieves with...

The Pomegranate Witch is a rare and joyful delight! And I hope there are many more marvelous rhyming books like this to come!

Source: Review Copy

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