Three Witches

Overview

The three bad witches are HUNGRY! "Let's eat these children," they say. They may have teeth that are longer than their lips and they may wear high heels, but they are NO match for two smart children, their brave grandma, three hound dogs, and a fast-running snake.

The Three Witches was first published in every tongue got to confess, the third volume of folklore collected by Zora Neale Hurston while traveling in the Gulf States in the 1930s. It has been adapted for young people ...

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Overview

The three bad witches are HUNGRY! "Let's eat these children," they say. They may have teeth that are longer than their lips and they may wear high heels, but they are NO match for two smart children, their brave grandma, three hound dogs, and a fast-running snake.

The Three Witches was first published in every tongue got to confess, the third volume of folklore collected by Zora Neale Hurston while traveling in the Gulf States in the 1930s. It has been adapted for young people by National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Thomas. The vibrant paintings have been masterfully executed by internationally celebrated artist Faith Ringgold.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This suspenseful folk story, collected by Hurston (1861-1960) and adapted by Thomas (The Six Fools), finds three crones (with teeth "far longer than their lips") in pursuit of a brother and sister. After the children's grandmother leaves their woodland cabin for provisions, the sister says, "I smell witches." "Good ones or bad ones?" her brother asks. "Bad," she answers. The red, green and purple hags-depicted in Ringgold's (Tar Beach) homespun painting style-chase the siblings up a tree and commence to chop it down; while the girl repeats a conjuring spell, the boy calls for their three hound dogs and grandmother slowly wends her way home. Simultaneously nerve-wracking and comic, this joins the crop of African-American scary tales like Hamilton and Moser's Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny. Ages 6-10. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
In this adaptation, Hurston's folktale takes its place with the other goose-bump-raising stories of wicked witches. These three have eaten the mother and father of a boy and girl, who are now living happily off in the woods with their grandmother. One day, when she has left to get food, the three witches, with "teeth far longer than their lips," arrive and threaten to eat them. The children run away and hide in a tree. As the witches chop away at the tree, the children chant, the girl's chant making the wood chips fly into the witches' eyes, while the boy calls to his hounds. Back and forth go the chopping and the chants. Meanwhile, exhausted Grandma has returned and fallen asleep; the hounds are tied up. Finally, a snake wakes up Grandma and she and the dogs arrive just in time to rescue the children. Despite their fashionable dresses, Ringgold's witches are really ugly, with fangs and crossed eyes; each has a different skin color, while the humans are African American. The action takes place in a typical folktale woods with rustic cabin and lots of greenery. The textured, mixed-media, casual-appearing illustrations have a direct appeal. The three dogs each have a distinct appearance. Once loose, they add positive energy with their open mouths and big sharp teeth. As the children set the dogs on the witches, we avoid the mayhem as the narrator reports, "By that time I left." Both adapter and illustrator have added informative notes.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-"Three witches had already eaten a boy and girl's mother and father, so their grandmother took them to live with her far off in the woods." Grandmother goes for food and the witches come. "Those witches! Their teeth were far longer than their lips!" They send the children to fetch water in a sieve; the children end up in a tree, and the witches start to chop it down with broad axes. The girl sings "Block eye, chip!" and the wood chips fly back into the witches' eyes and blind them. The boy calls the dogs, but they are tied up at home. Grandma returns, but is so tired from her journey that she takes a nap. A snake wakes up the old woman, she looses the dogs, and all ends well. Thomas's adaptation of the tale is careful and clever-she doesn't leave out anything, and elaborates only by drawing engaging dialogue out of the more straightforward original narrative. Ringgold's naive-style paintings in dark rich hues suit the creepy story perfectly-boy, are those witches ugly! Her portrait of Hurston, laughing, at the end of the story, lends a lovely and reassuring visual coda. Short engaging notes add context and cite Hurston's original source. Read this aloud, and add it to any collection alongside the other recent Hurston adaptations for young audiences, including Mary E. Lyons's Roy Makes a Car (S & S, 2005), Christopher Myers's Lies and Other Tall Tales (HarperCollins, 2005), and Thomas's adaptation of The Six Fools (HarperCollins, 2006).-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Three witches had already eaten a boy and girl's mother and father, so their grandmother took them to live with her far off in the woods." The cupboard bare, grandma leaves the children alone, and of course they fall into the clutches of the witches, marvelously depicted with red, green and purple skin; yellow, orange and blue hair; and exceedingly long teeth. The children escape to a tall tree, which the witches commence to chop down. The girl chants, "Block eye, chip!" sending wood into the witches' eyes, while the boy calls the hounds. Through the unexpected intervention of a large snake, grandma, who has fallen asleep all tuckered out from her trip to get food, wakes just in time, freeing the hounds who devour the hungry witches. Not for the faint-hearted, this tale's rich oral language begs to be read aloud, and will be welcomed by connoisseurs (of all ages) of the scary story. Includes adapter's and illustrator's notes and tributes to Hurston. (Picture book/folktale. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006495
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/25/2006
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. Her many books include Dust Tracks on a Road; Their Eyes Were Watching God; Jonah's Gourd Vine; Moses, Man of the Mountain; Mules and Men; and Every Tongue Got to Confess.

Faith Ringgold's artwork is in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Her books for young people include tar beach, a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award Book, and O Holy Night: Christmas with the Boys Choir of Harlem. She lives in New Jersey.

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      January 7, 1891
    2. Place of Birth:
      Eatonville, Florida
    1. Date of Death:
      January 28, 1960
    2. Place of Death:
      Fort Pierce, Florida
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.

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