________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 21 . . . . June 19, 1998

cover The Key to the Cupboard.

Susan Whitcher. Illustrated by Andrew Glass.
New York, NY: Farrar Straus Giroux/HarperCollins, 1997 (Distributed by U of T Press.)
32 pp, hardcover, $21.50.
ISBN 0-374-34127-3.

Subject Headings:

Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 4 - 7.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4


We get out the caldron and make brew. She puts in bats' teeth and bee stings and spit. I put in marshmallows and purple ink and birthday candles with the wishes still in them. We push all the cupboard boxes and junk out of the way so there is room to dance.

My witch weaves the steam with snaky thin fingers.
Our brew is terrifically powerful. Three drops
     Drip! Drop! POP!
on the tip of the broom make the bristles twitch and hop. The cat's whiskers
stand out like lightning bolts.

Then we are ready to go out of the window where it is almost always night.

image A young girl, with access to a secret cupboard in her house, has an imaginary friend, a witch named Alice Snavely. Together they whip up a magic brew, so powerful that a mere few drops can send them flying into the night sky on a series of adventures. The potion can transform shadows into birds, knights and a shape- changing wizard. Swept along by the action, Alice and the girl get into several dangerous predicaments, but, each time, they are helped by the magic brew until, finally, they arrive home safely. Whitcher's fast-paced story is, perhaps, a bit too fast. Its main characters move from one adventure to another with lightning speed, and, at the end of the story, when they manage to escape from the wizard, they are not even winded, but, rather, calmly scheming for their next outing.

      Glass's illustrations, with their curved lines and riotous colour, successfully convey the swirling, almost frantic, movement of the story. Rendered in what appears to be mixed media, they force the reader's eye to dart all over each illustration. With the exception of the last two pages, each illustration is a double-page spread.

      The book is, however, rather costly for the length and quality of the story.

Recommended with reservations.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364