Monday, February 3, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Curse of the Dream Witch

I was introduced to Allan Stratton’s darkly funny middle grade adventure The Grave Robber’s Apprentice last year when reading the books nominated for the 2013 Silver Birch awards. This one is similar in tone and just as creepy (maybe creepier).

Today’s Pick: Curse of the Dream Witch

by Allan Stratton

Scholastic Canada, 2013

From the publisher:

It is the age of the Great Dread. The Dream Witch wants the heart of Princess Olivia. Until she has it none of the kingdom's children are safe. Olivia's parents seek help from the Prince Leo of Pretonia and his uncle, the Duke of Fettwurst, but the treacherous duo seize their castle instead. It is up to Olivia to defeat the Dream Witch, Prince Leo and his uncle. She makes a daring escape from her turret cell and races to the forest to take on the Dream Witch in her underground lair. Two friends are by her side: the peasant boy Milo and a curious talking mouse with a surprising past. Together they must face danger and fantastical adverseries to lift the Great Dread, save their families and rescue a kingdom.

My Take:

There are some pretty creepy elements in this story (including the witch, who has with eyes like burning coals) but lots of funny bits too. The quick pace got the main characters moving along on their adventure right away. There were a couple of places where I got confused about where the characters were exactly, but it didn’t detract from the story. It was fun to notice all the connections to traditional fairy tales while reading. There were also lots of fun details like pysanky (decorated eggs). But you might not want to read this before bedtime, because of some of the disturbing images it might conjure up.

I admired the voice and was impressed by the way the author wrote with a sense of humor and fun even with all the scary images and events in the story. It seems like a tricky balance to pull off, but in this novel it was successful. The voice will definitely help this book to appeal to its target readers.  

Opening Line:

“It was the twelfth year of the Great Dread.”


“Imagination is a powerful thing,” Ephemia said darkly. “What we believe—what we think we know—can destroy us.”

“Life isn’t fair,” the Dream Witch shrugged. “And that, my pet, is the scariest nightmare of all.”

Other Info:

Allan Stratton lives in Toronto with his partner and 4 cats.

Curse of the Dream Witch is a finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards in the Silver Birch category. 

Last year, his novel The Grave Robber’s Apprentice was also nominated for the Silver Birch award. You can read my thoughts on that book here.

Other books by this author include:

The Grave Robber’s Apprentice
Chanda’s Wars
Chanda’s Secrets
Leslie’s Journal

For more, visit Allan Stratton’s website.

You can find more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books by checking out Shannon Messenger’s blog! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. Got to love some MG humor. I love that first line! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    1. That first line sets the tone of the book already, I think.

  2. Sounds lie this one might be a good read out loud kind of book. Can't wait to pick up both this one and THE GRAVE ROBBER"S APPRENTICE. Thanks for featuring.

    1. Yeah, I think it would be good for reading aloud.

  3. Creepy creeps me out (for instance, I haven't been able to touch DOLL BONES...)

  4. DOLL BONES will give you nightmares, Barbara!

    Thanks, Andrea, for always featuring interesting authors and novels which may not get so much attention this side of the border.

    1. Aw, your so sweet! I do like to feature Canadian books, because there are so many great ones that probably do get less attention.

  5. I'm not big on creepy. For instance, I clapped THE GRAVEYARD BOOK shut in the first chapter. When Roald Dahl said "Children love that sort of thing" re creepy elements, I remember thinking how wrong he was in my case. I did read DOLL BONES, though, and I think it was really instructive in how "creepy" might be used in MG. Humor helps, too.

  6. I'll have to try Doll Bones again. I'm not a huge fan of creepy, either. But I know some kids love it!


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