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The Witch Boy

Cover: 'The Witch Boy '

Staff Review: "The Witch Boy " by Molly Knox Ostertag


Aster wants to learn how to be a witch, but the men in his family are supposed to be shapeshifters and warriors. Aster doesn't care about those things; he just wants to learn witchcraft with the girls. He spies on them, jotting down notes and teaching himself spells. His mother warns him that what happened to his great uncle could happen to him, that his magic could become twisted and evil, if he doesn't follow the gender norms of their society. 

On the equinox, Aster and the other boys who haven't yet shifted go on a quest to meet their spirit animal and learn how to shift into that animal. Asters sees Sedge follow a strange spirit outside of the protection of the standing stones and disappear. Soon other boys have also disappeared. None of the witches can find them and even the shapeshifters can't smell their scent.  Aster tries his had at scrying--magic that is forbidden to boys--and seems to find the others. He is soon visited by the strange spirit, who promises to help him find his animal form. 

Aster's story reminds everyone that who they are shouldn't be bound by preconceived notions of gender or by a parent's expectation of what we should become. When Aster's grandmother shares her story of her twin brother and how his magic become twisted, it becomes clear that the society needs to change to take each child's individual talents into consideration, rather than just assuming that because someone is a girl, that they will become a witch or that all boys become shapechangers. This graphic novel makes it's point in a quiet non-didactic fashion, helping the reader understand that everyone is different. The drawings complement the story, with their clean drawings and jewel like colors. A great story with wonderful pictures, this graphic novel is sure to capture the attention of many middle grade readers. 

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, graphic novel, identity

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