The Okay Witch – by Emma Steinkellner

  The Okay Witch – by Emma Steinkellner, Simon & Schuster, 9781534431454, 2019

Format: Paperback Advance Reader’s Edition

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

Genre: Fantasy Graphic Novel

What did you like about the book? This is a great coming-of-age story in which Moth, at 13 years old, realizes that she is a witch. Her school is putting on a play about the town history, in which we see the white men who cast the witch women out of the town portrayed as heroes (with many clear connections to the Salem Witch Trials, plus race as an additional element). As she makes friends with a new boy in school and learns more about her family history and how it is tied up in the town history, Moth is faced with many deep questions and struggles: how people of multiple identities can feel a sense of belonging in a community; belonging to a community with the hope and expectation of change versus giving up on it for a safe haven; parenthood and child rebellion and forgiveness; reconciling and living with ancestral mistakes; being proud of one’s identity despite not fitting in, and more. I was really impressed with how so much was packed into the book without it feeling overwhelming or too dense. Despite the deep themes, there is humor and a light realistic school experience storyline weaving through. I also appreciated the racial and gender diversity in the story, with only a few stereotypical characters (bullies and teachers). The ending wraps up pretty nicely, but also leaves open the possibility of additional books.

Anything you did not like about the book. There’s a lot of fantastic themes touched upon in this book. I’d love to see some sequels that go a bit further. My impression from the front cover and the synopsis on the back cover was a much lighter and more magical story, whereas the actual book is much deeper. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Late elementary and early middle school age students who are questioning who they are and how they fit into the community they live in. The many deep themes would make it great for group discussion. Would especially appeal to readers who enjoyed The Witch Boy (Molly Knox Ostertag), All’s Faire in Middle School (Victoria Jamieson), or Ghosts (Raina Telgemeier). 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, middle school librarians, public librarians

Where would you shelve it? Graphic Novels

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: August 10, 2019


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