Recommended for grades 4-8
I would always walk past The Last Apprentice series books’ by Joseph Delaney while working at Borders, with the thought that it was just some Harry Potter wannabe. Then, I noticed that the newer titles in the series picked up in popularity toward the last few years I was working. A tiny seed had planted itself on my “to-read” shelf. Finally, this past December, I decided to check out the audio book from the library to listen to on the way to and from work. I should be on the Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production committee because I manage to listen to so many children’s books on tape. And I fancy myself doing pretty well judging a book on its quality. It’s really a simple piece of criteria I judge with…is the audio book fascinating enough that I want to listen to it before AND after work. Will I trade my relaxing, music-filled, yet traffic-bound drive home for an audio book, which requires some concentration?
I wasn’t even through the first disc of Revenge of the Witch and I wanted to write this post, which lands the book in another rare category I have for my blog (it’s under very rare circumstances that I post about a book before finishing). Delaney is an incredible writer! One reviewer said The Last Apprentice series was a step above Goosebumps. I disagree. Delaney’s old world setting mixed with descriptive language about the things that go bump in the night—such as boggarts, witch’s and ghouls—is more than a step above Goosebumps (and I love Goosebumps). It almost reminds me of a younger version of The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey.
The job of the Spook is to take care of all that gives others nightmares—it’s a lonely and tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Thomas Ward, the twelve-year-old protagonist, who is the Spook’s newest apprentice, has a strong voice in this book. The reader feels for him throughout the first book. Tom and the Spook complement each other in this book and make for intriguing interactions. The sense of adventure and suspense is palpable as Tom is tricked and befriended by a young witch, who comes from a family of highly malevolent witches. Scenes throughout this book are creepy enough to keep even the most ardent scary story readers on their toes.
I ordered this book for my library because I knew my 4th and 5th graders would eat this story up.
Delaney, J. (2005). Revenge of the witch. New York, NY: Harper Children's Audio.