Book: Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch
Author: Diana Murray
Illustrator: Heather Ross
Age Range: 4-8
Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch is a humorous tale of a young witch who lives on her own, and is very, very messy. Grimelda is so messy, in fact, that sometimes she can't find things that she needs. When a craving for pickle pie sends her on a quest to find her lost "pickle root", Grimelda searches high and low, through grime and squalor. But eventually she concedes that there is no help for it: she's going to have to clean her house if she wants to find the lost pickle root. Happily, however, there is a kid-friendly twist at the end. This is no "and the moral of the story is, keep your room clean" didactic picture book. No, Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch is a celebration of dirt and clutter, and of being yourself.
Diana Murray's rhyming text is pitch-perfect and read-aloud-friendly. I especially like how she inserts remarks by Grimelda in with the poetry. Like this:
"One night, Grimelda long to try
a recipe for pickle pie
She found the flour and egg of newt,
but where'd I put that pickle root?
Here the last line is shown in a text bubble, and in purple text, to make it extra clear that Grimelda is speaking directly. Sometimes rhyming text doesn't work in picture books, but my sense is that Murray has the poetry chops to pull it off.
I also like Murray's incorporation of unusual witch-paraphernalia. Like this:
"This other stuff won't do!" she said.
She tossed aside the scream cheese spread,
the rot sauce,
and the dragon fruit.
She had to find that pickle root."
There are also things like "stinkweed potpourri" and "wormy apple core". Just quirky enough to be interesting, without being wholly disgusting or actually scary.
Heather Ross's digitally created illustrations are chaotic and cheerful, capturing details of Grimelda's mess not necessarily covered in the text (like a sink so full of dirt that grass is growing in it). There are cute snails living in the house, not to mention toadstools and spiders. Grimeda is shown with two enormous pigtails of tangled red hair, and a missing shoe. She wears swim goggles to fly to Zelda's General Store (where a sign warns that "ALL baby dragon sales are FINAL").
Together, this combination of bouncy, rhyming text and cheerful, quirky illustrations makes for a kid-friendly read-aloud. This would be a great addition to a library storytime for Halloween - entertaining but not at all scary. Here at home, I'm looking forward to reading this one to my six-year-old, especially as fall approaches. Recommended!
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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