Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble: a critical look at the controversy over Roald Dahl's The Witches

Elizabeth Oliver


Recognized by the American Library Association and The New York Times as one of the best children’s books of 1983, and winning the Whitbread Award and the Federation of Children’s Books Group Award in the UK, The Witches has invoked controversy among readers and reviewers since its publication.  It is also one of the most frequently challenged books in the US and UK.  With its use of crude humor, violence, fantastical witches, and fast-paced plot, The Witches quickly captivated and still captivates a child audience.  Unfortunately, this magnitude of child-popularity attracted the attention of adults who, for the same reasons, rebuked the content of the book.  In this paradigm of child versus adult sentiment, Dahl’s creation engages and encourages a young generation to read, while also promoting child dissention and negative stereotypes through his anti-authority mantra and his disillusioned portrayal of female witches.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680