Rosemary is a fairy who doesn’t want to be neat and sweet all the time. No way! She’d rather be a witch living in a treehouse in the witches’ wood, roller-skating and getting nice and dirty. Her mom rejects her wayward daughter’s choices, while the witches encourage Rosemary to take risks and challenge herself. But the bond of maternal love is strong and when Rosemary’s mom ventures into the wood to find her daughter, she too discovers that being a witch can be good fun!
There is much to enjoy in this picture book for children ages 4-8, not least the feisty main character. Rosemary knows what she wants, and she’s prepared to take action to achieve her aims. She’s a mischievous go-getter whose rebellious behavior doesn’t quite mask her affection for her mother. And there’s an important message in her determination to be a witch rather than a fairy—of giving children the freedom to express their identity rather than forcing them to conform to societal norms. Readers can also learn from Rosemary’s mom. By venturing into unknown territory, she not only overcomes her prejudices about witches, she comes to accept her daughter as she is.
Laura Watkinson’s translation from the Dutch is beautifully paced and fun to read. And Carll Cneut’s multi-layered acrylic illustrations are extraordinary. Dark woods are enlivened by pops of color, a plethora of pink and red blossoms burst across a double page spread, and pointy-nosed witches with impossibly tall hats surface from the page.
Let’s hope young readers will be encouraged to channel their inner witch after reading this wonderfully unique story. Or perhaps they’ll opt for magic wands and fairy dresses instead. Or maybe there’s a third possibility: choosing to be a witchfairy!
Originally published in Dutch as Heksenfee by Uitgeverij De Eenhoorn Wielsbeke, 2016.
Written by Brigitte Minne
Illustrated by Carll Cneut
Translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
Published by Book Island, 2017
Watch an interview with illustrator Carll Cneut here
Laura Taylor is the founder of world children’s literature blog Planet Picture Book. She is a small business copywriter, NAATI-certified translator of French into English and member of AUSIT and IBBY Australia. When she is not writing, she is reading, and chasing after her two young children. She tweets regularly @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com