Friday, July 15, 2016

The Lunch Witch

Every time I go to a conference I have to remind myself not to buy any books, because then I have to carry them home. This year at the International Literacy Association's annual meeting in Boston I was only there for a day, and I was traveling light, but I still ended up buying a few books. The first one I dove into was this one, The Lunch Witch.

Grunhilda is a witch who has fallen on hard times. She comes from a long line of witches who have been renowned for their historically horrible deeds, but times have changed and there is not much call for eating children and causing mass chaos. Also, the market for evil spells and potions has dried up, so she resorts herself to the want ads. Noting her penchant for mixing horrible things together, she eventually becomes a lunch lady.
Her life becomes complicated when she meets a girl named Madison who is the only one who seems to realize she is a witch. Madison is struggling in school, and she tries to hire Grunhilda to make her an intelligence potion. Grunhilda struggles with unfamiliar and entirely foreign feelings of niceness and altruism (she is a witch after all), but she does produce that potion for Madison. I won't spoil what happens, but an interloper adjusted the ingredients, and the result of that potion is unexpected to say the least.

One of my favorite parts of this book is just how dark it is. The artwork is pleasantly horrific and gray. The pages look greasy and strewn with food or other mucky things. But there is joy and heart in these scenarios and characters, and the entire enterprise comes off as highly enjoyable and funny. I read this whole book in one sitting, and I found the whole thing enchanting.

This darkly hilarious book was created by Deb Lucke, and it is the first entry in what will be a series I hope. She is a children's book illustrator and this is her first graphic novel. She speaks more about her inspiration and work on this book in this interview.

All of the reviews I have read of this book have been full of praise. Publishers Weekly both gave it a starred review, calling it "A wickedly funny start to this series." Nate Einhorn wrote, "Like a school lunch, THE LUNCH WITCH doesn’t look like you might expect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something to gobble up and enjoy." Esther Keller summed up, "This will be a great addition to any collection. Middle grade readers will devour this title."

Papercutz, this book's publisher, provides all kinds of resources and previews here. Grunhilda also has her own dedicated website here and it's chock full of fun, I mean awful, things!

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