Witches’ Britches, Itches and Twitches! by Mark Carthew, illustrated by Mike Spoor (Interactive Publications, 2012)
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
This is a fun and lively children’s book with engaging and well-drawn black and white line and washes illustrations on every page. It’s not simply a poetry collection but also includes jokes and riddles, inviting readers at the front of the book to count how many cats and rats appear throughout the book. The title page warns the reader to beware of the (witch’s) cat and to enter at their own risk, setting the tone for what is to come next. In the first short verse, the reader guesses the last line – which rhymes with ‘riddle’ and is about bats that plop and…
There are eight sections to the book, including poems about ‘Fearless Frogs and Wizards’ Dogs’, ‘Odes to Toads’ and ‘Nifty Nooks and Batty Books’. There’s also a section titled ‘Doctor! Doctor’ with a terrific double page illustration of the child witch inside a cave which is the Doctor’s Surgery and Beautician Clinic wherein are some ‘fearsome’ creatures such as a troll, dragon and ogre. Mike Spoor (who comes from the UK) really knows how to enhance a book with his drawings. Sometimes his characters are speaking so he makes good use of speech balloons.
Mark Carthew, who lives in Melbourne, says in his bio at the end of the book that he ‘likes jokes and silly songs/Rhymes and riddles, sing-alongs.’ It’s obvious that he’s enjoyed finding knock knock jokes and riddles for the book. Interspersed with them are his original poems which are mostly in limerick form such as ‘a lady from Kent’ who ‘landed face first in cement!’
Here’s a short poem to enjoy:
Roses are red and violets are blue
Don’t look now,
There’s a toad in the stew!
One section of the book consists of book titles and authors, such as Love at First Bite by IC Teith and Navigating the Night Sky by Seymour Stars and Nu Moon. Another bit of fun is illustrations and biographies of characters who appear in the book – Gwendolyn Baldershead-Caruthers (who unfortunately perished when her broom caught fire over Mt Krakatau in 1883) and Priscilla Probosico (owned of the longest nose ever measured on a witch.)
The whole tone of the book is one of merriment, both in text and visuals. For any child who is reluctant to read, this is the sort of book that a wise teacher or parent gifts to him or her. But it’s also sure to be a hit for any reader aged eight years and up.