Lizs Book Snuggery

“Old Black Witch” by Wende And Harry Devlin; It’s a Classic Halloween Hoot!

As Halloween nears, here’s a classic Halloween picture book treat to read and relish with your young reader. As I reread Wende and Harry Devlin’s Old Black Witch, I couldn’t help remembering Disney’s Halloween cartoon, featuring Edythe Hazel aka Witch Hazel.

I have include the link to this favorite Halloween cartoon of mine called Trick or Treat. You’ll find the link to it below, at the bottom of the blog. The musical tune you hear throughout is called Trick or Treat for Halloween. It’s catchy, and I still find myself humming it each year about this time: Let’s see if I can remember the words. It’s in the cobwebs somewhere. Ah! Found it.

Trick or Treat,

Trick or Treat,

Trick or Treat for Halloween.

When ghost and goblins by the score,

Ring the bell at your front door,

You better not be stingy…or

Your nightmares will come true!

Your kids may hum along, after hearing it as well as reciting the incantations that Hazel uses to bedevil Donald Duck, when she enchants them with this line, “This is the REAL thing, kids…right out of Shakespeare”. Witch Hazel, appearing on Halloween, spies Donald as he “tricks” his nephews without even a small “treat.”  By the way, Donald’s trick of putting a “treat” of fire crackers in each bag and then “tricking” them with a liberal douse from an overhead bucket filled with water, might have passed for a “trick or treat” in 1952, but certainly not today. Hazel undertakes the teaching of a painful lesson to Donald, as she rewards the nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie for believing in whom she purports to be with a:

             Oh joy! Thou do believeth in witches. Just for that, I’ll help thee get

            thy candy!

And what ensues is Disney Halloween magic!

Next, meet the picture book crone named Old Black Witch who resides in a creaky New England house that has been purchased by Nicky and his mom with the idea of upgrading it into a tea room. Small problem here, as there is already someone in residence…Old Black Witch. She is not exactly a welcoming sort of witch as she screeches:

                 Who told you to build a fire in my fireplace?”, she shouted,

                 stamping around and shaking her broom. “Jumping Jehoshaphat!

                 You’ve scorched my blasted broom.

Relegated to the attic, the question is will Old Black Witch accept the changes gracefully lending a bit of authenticity to the new “Jug and Muffin” inn, or will she not?

Slowly, her welcoming intonations of “Boo! Scat, and Ratcha Fratch!”  used to greet guests only add to  the tea room’s charm! And, just wait till the customers taste the bewitching blueberry pancakes that Old Black Witch conjures up. Even though it’s been “a hundred years since she last cooked,” she hasn’t lost the magic touch. Her pancakes are a huge hit and the charm of her voice lilts throughout the kitchen with a cackling:

                    Boil cauldron,

                    Make a brew,

                    What kind of berries

                    Make pancakes blue?

Please let your young reader discover the magic of the classic read called Old Black Witch, first published by the Devlins in 1963, and both of whom were fine arts graduates of Syracuse  University and accomplished painters. They later took up residence in New Jersey, raising a family there.  And after the read, please sail to the kitchen, even on a broom, and try the recipe for her blueberry pancakes on the back cover of the picture book.

They’re magic and gone in a trice!

And if your young readers love this picture book, please follow it up with the Devlin’s Cranberry series of Cranberry Halloween (1982), Cranberry Thanksgiving (1971), Cranberry Christmas (1984) and several others that also contain recipes to sample and savor during the holidays.

They’re all bewitchingly readable and classic!


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