Walking with Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper

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Walking With Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An enjoyably creepy and supernatural story with a wealth of wonderfully local historical detail. The dialogue can be clunky, but it's otherwise a great read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Tyne Bridge
ISBN: 185795128X

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On an excursion to Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society with other home-educated girls, Eleanor and Isabel decide to make their project about witchcraft. Newcastle had seen its fair share of witch hunting during the 1600s, so there is a wealth of contemporary source material at the society's library. And before they know it, strange things begin to happen. The pages of an old spell book turn of their own volition. The temperature keeps dropping. The girls find an ancient pendulum.

Isabel, the more pragmatic of the two, is inclined to write off the incidents as coincidence, or superstition brought on by their choice of project. But Eleanor, the more sensitive, is less sanguine. She's beginning to feel a genuine connection to the past, and sometimes it's as though there's more than one person inhabiting her body...

Similar in vein to Robert Neill's Mist Over Pendle, Huggins-Cooper weaves a shivery but romantic supernatural story with its roots in the seventeenth century persecution of witches. Eleanor's feeling a connection to a fictional woman executed for witchcraft, but the witch hunter described is a real historical figure. Such supernatural stories set in the modern day with connections to witches of the past are popular, but can be a little tricky, since the supernatural element inevitably implies that the women were witches, but the narrative wants to highlight their unjust executions. It's managed pretty well here, with Eleanor's long-dead namesake representing white witchery, as it were, with some nasty dark witchery serving as the villainous side.

The scary bits really are pretty scary - although it's mostly atmospheric, so there's nothing you wouldn't want a primary school child to read - and the book has a wealth of wonderfully local and well-researched historical detail. The dialogue is a touch overdone and sometimes clunky, but that's the only drawback to a satisfyingly creepy and interesting read. It'll be enjoyed by children from late primary to mid to late secondary age, particularly girls.

My thanks to the nice people at Tyne Bridge for sending the book.

Fans of supernatural thrillers might also enjoy Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge.

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Buy Walking with Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Walking with Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Walking with Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Walking with Witches by Lynne Huggins-Cooper at Amazon.com.


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Alexander David Tempest said:

I know what the reviewer is trying to say, however, there are some things I wanted to question:

Is it really a differenciation between black and white witchcraft? I had thought that the shape shifter was a malevolent entity; an evil being of it's own species rather than an example of 'black' witchcraft. The story is a little less black and white (no pun intended) than that. I think the point, or rather the question, that it asks the read is 'Is there anything wrong with being a witch?'. It leaves it to the reader, implying instead that these women are witches, but not the devil-dancing harlots history would have led us to believe. I also think it was a bold move to use the Witchfinder, a real historical being, and depict him as a monster in the literal, not metaphorical sense. In my opinion, the witchhunter was an evil man who, like many before and after him, used Christianity as an excuse to murder. This added an interesting element to the story. I also found the dialogue enjoyable, although it would appear our reviewer did not. It didn't fall into the trap other children's literature does sometimes of trying to be too 'cool' for want of a better word. This would leave the author appearing old and out of touch. It would also make the book become quickly dated. It also is not the tedious throwback to the dark times of Jennings style children's books which would alienate children. All in all, an enjoyable read

Alexander David Tempest: Actor, Singer, Teacher

Jill enquired:

Are you a friend or relative, perchance? Ah yes.

Alexander David Huggins-Cooper: Son.