Tuesday, April 21, 2015

One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser

Rudi is back. He is first introduced in the book, "The Brixen Witch" showing a knack for getting into pickles of some sort or another that are not entirely his doing.Yet, he shoulders the responsibility when fixing the problem falls on him. He does not blame others even when he can or maybe should. Internally, his character arc shows a boy that has become smarter about life through his adventure. He thinks about what it means to be a hero and have public glory but decides later that he doesn't do what he does for adoration. He just does what has to be done. The character arc lags at times but comes on strong at the end as Rudi thinks on what makes good leaders or heroes - it implies that greedy people are not fit to lead and heroes can lose sight of what is important if they act for public recognition. Rudi is the unsung hero who has learned that this path is best for him. The twisty ending is a terrific contrast from the classic "Jack and the Beanstalk."

Rudi is ambushed by nine-year-old Susanna on his way to the market to sell a cow. The family has fallen on hard times and needs food for the table. A foreign girl is trying to sell something in the market. Rudi finds her attractive, but not enough to sell his cow for some lousy beans. Susanna, on the other hand, recognizes the beans as magic and sells the cow behind his back setting into motion a plague on the town of Brixen. Everyone knows that magic brings trouble and the Brixen Witch knows that magic from another town must be returned for balance to be restored. Rudi is called upon to right the wrong in this action-filled adventure.

While Susanna's character is spot-on, Agatha's character wasn't rounded out enough. Writing a good plot can be tricky business. You want to tease the reader along, but don't want to give away too much to soon. You don't want to be too obvious because you threaten to bore the reader and slow the pace. You also don't want the characters acting in ways that don't make sense and develop them at the same time. Too many questions surround Agatha at the beginning and Rudi doesn't ask the questions like people normally would when they have been scammed by someone.

It doesn't make sense that Agatha would steal beans, try to sell them, then help Rudi return them. Her motives are obvious that she is not to be trusted. Also Rudi never forces her to explain herself as a normal person would. He just looks at her starry-eyed and accepts everything she says. He comes off really naive which is contrary to a boy that has already saved his village. Agatha shows a person constantly serving her own self-interests. While this story has good descriptions and dialogue, the plot involving Agatha is too obvious making it feel forced. But again, I'm an adult reader. Perhaps it won't be obvious to 3rd or 4th graders.

This works as a stand alone, but I suggest reading "The Brixen Witch." It is well-written and the reader will feel like he or she knows Rudi better. The ending and its twist on "Jack and the Beanstalk," was unexpected and funny. If you like fractured fairy tales, then you will like this one.

3 Smileys

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