A shadowy witch, a cursed hunter—it’s tricky business for Sol and Connie as they face off against this awful pair. The kids narrowly averted being eaten by the last witch after them, and this time it doesn’t look any better. It’s a long way through the accursed valley, they’re running out of food and water, and that lodge on the mountain side with the collection of animals inside isn’t exactly comforting. Who can save them? The All Creatures Manager? A heroic woodthrush? The Camper Lady? The Know-It-All Cube? Or...

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The Witch's Curse

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A shadowy witch, a cursed hunter—it’s tricky business for Sol and Connie as they face off against this awful pair. The kids narrowly averted being eaten by the last witch after them, and this time it doesn’t look any better. It’s a long way through the accursed valley, they’re running out of food and water, and that lodge on the mountain side with the collection of animals inside isn’t exactly comforting. Who can save them? The All Creatures Manager? A heroic woodthrush? The Camper Lady? The Know-It-All Cube? Or will they have to save themselves? And here’s the worst of it: little do Sol and Connie know that the ancient child hunter is about to wake up—thanks to the witch's curse—in this delightful book from author Keith McGowan and illustrator Yoko Tanaka.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—This sequel to The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children (Holt, 2009) is an exciting adventure. Sol, 11, always wanted to be athletic, but being turned into a deer was not how he envisioned becoming a better runner. Having just escaped from the evil witch who attempted to eat them, he and his younger sister, Connie, are once again under the influence of evil, this time in the form of a witch who feeds children potions and turns them into animals. She keeps these stuffed animals in a cabin and manipulates them into different poses. This is where she also keeps David, who is cursed to hunt the animal-shaped children against his will. Sol and Connie are his newest prey. But they have an ally, a wood thrush sent by the only person the children know they can trust, an old woman who possesses the power to control nature and animals. With the help of the thrush and her own strength in fighting the potion that is turning her into a rabbit, Connie fights the hunter, rescues her brother, and returns both of them to their human form. The added perspectives of the All Creatures Manager in the town they left and the journal of the hunter, tortured by his dreadful task, as well as the squabbling of the two siblings make this story a bit more complex than just a good-versus-evil tale. A well-done continuation of the story that leaves readers wanting to hear from this brother and sister again.—Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA
From the Publisher
"A well-done continuation of the story that leaves readers wanting to hear from this brother and sister again." —School Library Journal

"McGowan here creatively interweaves aspects of Grimms’ Brother and Sister, blending classic fairy-tale and contemporary elements, magic, suspense, and vibrant, diversely drawn kid protagonists into another edgy, absorbing read." —Booklist

"Having narrowly avoided becoming dinner in The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children, sibs Sol and Connie face another folkloric fate in this equally gothic sequel." —Kirkus Reviews


Praise for The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children:

"A semisweet literary treat . . . Seriously cerebral humor that will delight and challenge the inquisitive youngster." —The New Yorker

"Fans of Lemony Snicket’s best-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events should love Keith McGowan’s beguiling debut." —USA Today

Children's Literature - Mary Thompson
Once upon a time a royal hunter and his knights ignored the warnings of curses and sought game in an enchanted valley. After years of successful ventures the prince was cursed by Monique, a powerful witch, to remain in the valley forever tracking down and killing animals who were once children. In a small town not far away lives Sol and his sister Connie who recently escaped from Mrs. Holaderry, their neighbor and author of "The witch's guide to cooking with children." The children's only hope remains with their Aunt Heather who lives on the other side of the mountains. After leaving a note for their one friend, Gertrude, owner of the store "All Creatures, Big and Small," they board a bus bound for their last remaining relative. When the bus breaks down, Sol and Connie wander and become lost in the forest located unfortunately for them in the famed enchanted valley. Gertrude has her magic cane back and is able to send a thrush into the valley to help guide the children to safety. However Monique is cunning and knows just how to lure lost children to her bespelled streams where the water will turn them into prey. Even though Sol and Connie become caught up in her web, begin the transformation and are separated, they use their talents and love for one another to change their fate. In addition to the main perspective of Sol and Connie there are passages telling the stories of Gertrude, the cursed hunter and the poor thrush who is desperate to complete his mission. This delicious fractured fairy tale will beguile younger kids with the spooky magic and adventure while the gothic undertone will appeal to tweens. Tanaka's lovely soft brushed black and white illustrations are a perfect match for McGowan's ghostly yarn. Reviewer: Mary Thompson
Kirkus Reviews
Having narrowly avoided becoming dinner in The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children (2009), sibs Sol and Connie face another folkloric fate in this equally gothic sequel. Hoping to leave child-eating neighbor Fay Holaderry far behind, Sol and Connie board a departing bus--but then incautiously step off while the driver fixes a flat and are immediately lost in a justly ill-reputed forest. Fortunately, they run into Monique, a friendly forester who leads them to her cabin. Unfortunately, Monique is another evil witch, who transforms the children into animals for her bespelled huntsman, David, to hunt down and convert into taxidermy exhibits. McGowan infuses his tale with Brothers Grimm–style motifs and atmosphere, but obscure riddles, Sol's homemade computer and several other elements turn out to clutter the story rather than contribute to it. Furthermore, David's fatalistic ruminations on his curse (recorded in multiple journal entries) are likely to leave even adult readers cold, and his relationship with Monique comes off as, at best, ambiguous. Tanaka's scenes of androgynous-looking children gradually acquiring animal parts ably abet the atmosphere. Extraneous elements, rampant psycho-symbolism and multiple point-of-view switches turn this into a loosely woven grab-bag, but the resolution does provide some satisfaction. (Fantasy. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805097504
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 3/19/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 906,566
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Keith McGowan is the author of The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children, which received glowing reviews and honors. A former teacher, he currently lives in the third district of Vienna, Austria.

YOKO TANAKA is the illustrator of several books, including Sparrow Girl. She lives in Thailand.

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Read an Excerpt


I DON’T WISH to hunt animals who were once children. But I must. I’m woken from my long sleep by Monique, the witch of these woods, and told whom I have to hunt next. I’m cursed, you see.
It’s a terrible fate.
If you are a child, you might well ask, What kind of terrible fate is that? We are the ones being turned into animals and hunted, not you. And I admit it. Those I gallop after, bow in hand, have it worse than I do.
It’s worse to be hunted than to be the hunter.
Still, you can’t imagine what it’s like being me. When I halt by the river so my horse can drink and I see my face reflected in the rippling currents, a villain staring back. I never wanted to be a villain. I was going to settle down to a grand estate—my family’s—with forty servants and a dozen carriages. Centuries ago, you see, I was a wealthy young man and, besides, a great hunter of animals. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
My friends and I would ride into this valley. We’d blow our hunting horns, daring the animals to run from us. We always gave them a fighting chance, you see? Then we’d chase them down on our horses. It was a thrill, showing off our skills as horsemen and archers. I was the most skilled of all and proud of it.
Had I heard these woods were accursed? Yes, I’d heard that children shouldn’t enter the valley. There were rumors—of lost children disappearing and an evil witch who lived here. But I never saw the witch or any evil creature. And I wasn’t a child. None of us hunters were.
I thought, What does it have to do with me?
I learned soon enough, though, that the terrible fate of the children was tied to my own fate, as tight as my horse to its bit. That some of the animals we hunted WEREthe lost children, transformed into woodland beasts by the witch Monique. I should have known. It should have been obvious. But they ran from our horn blasts and our horses just like the other animals. There was nothing in their eyes to warn me when I took an arrow from my quiver, nocked it, drew back my bowstring, aimed, and let the arrow fly.
Now I am cursed because of it, and the absolute worst thing about my curse is … knowing the truth. That the animals I now hunt—with my special arrows—once were children, they played childish games, and, just maybe, they lay alone at night, watched shadows on the wall, and dreamed of evil creatures that might soon be chasing them, like me.
So I am writing in this logbook of mine with the hope that it might someday get out of this accursed valley—I do not know how.
So that children may learn.
Because, children, I am NOTpleased to meet you.
And if by chance you ever do see my face, the one I see in the river when my horse stops to drink, then do me one big favor—if you can remember it.
Run! As fast as your legs will carry you. All four of them. I fear, though, that by then it will be too late.…
*   *   *
SO wrote David Bittworth one summer night in his stone lodge in the mountains, far from town or city. He wrote in a small book he called his log, using a stubby pencil he sharpened himself with the sharp blade of his cooking knife. Around him stood animals, forever still: a bear, a fox, a huge caribou, an opossum, an armadillo, a duck, rabbits and weasels and beavers; near the door that opened to the mountainside stood two wolves—they had been sisters, Lisa and Nicki. So many still eyes staring at him or at the crackling flames in the fireplace or out the dark window, depending on where they were posed.
Preserved, Monique called it.
David leaned back, stretching his feet in comfortable slippers toward the fire. He wore a white nightrobe that hung from his broad shoulders. He looked very strong. He closed the logbook and kept it on the arm of his chair, the firelight flickering over it, until he rose and went to the leather bag of arrows that hung near the hearth. He took that bag down—his quiver—drew out the magic arrows, and stuck the small book and pencil into the bottom. He put the arrows back, checking each as he did for straightness. Only the straightest arrows were good for the hunt. They flew accurately through the air then, and struck whatever he aimed at.
Or whoever.
Unlucky children, he thought.

Text copyright © 2013 by Keith McGowan
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Yoko Tanaka

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