Let’s give a hearty Tor.com welcome* to author Keith McGowan, who’s going to spend the next month blogging about kids’ books, as well as interviewing people in Science and Technology Studies, writing about his adopted home of Vienna, and hosting a book giveaway.
Keith’s first children’s book is The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children, a modern-day Hansel and Gretel story. I enjoyed the way the book plays with expectations; unusually for a middle grade book, it uses multiple viewpoints and formats, including the witch’s personal diary. One of our heroes, Sol, is a boy with long hair and, like my own little brother before he grew that goatee, he occasionally gets mistaken for a girl. His sister Connie is the crop-haired rascal, and the two of them navigate a suburban jungle full of dangers and potential allies. And I do mean dangers—it’s not for the faint of heart, but I think a lot of kids delight in “scary” details like the witch’s suggestions for wine and desserts that go well with baked nine-year-old.
The book just came out from Holt and has already been picked for the Indie Next List, which also includes books by Neil Gaiman, Richard Peck, Patricia Reilly Giff, Andrew Clements, Jane Smiley and Sid Fleischman. There are illustrations throughout by Yoko Tanaka, who just did Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant; they remind me just a little of Dave McKean.
Keith tells us he’s been a science fiction and fantasy reader all his life and lists Stanislaw Lem, Philip Dick, Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, Tolkien, and Ray Bradbury among his favorite writers.
Look for his posts, two or three a week, starting tomorrow. They’ll be tagged “Letters from Abroad” and feature a photo of a giant green witch, painted in downtown Vienna—but more on that from Keith.
*I am now taking suggestions for what, exactly, constitutes a Tor.com welcome. It sounds...hazardous
Megan Messinger is a production assistant at Tor.com, a job which involves testing out recipes for baked nine-year-old. She is learning to play the fiddle.