by Sine van Mol
Carianne Wijffels, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Inside Jacket: The children of Fly Street are convinced that Meena is a witch. After all, she eats toads and drinks blood, doesn’t she? One day she even imprisons a girl inside her house! But has she really? Will Klaus, Christa, and Thomas be able to rise above their fears and find a new friend?
First Sentence: The children of Fly Street are afraid of Meena.
Klaus, Christa, and Thomas are convinced that Meena, a single woman with a large girth, is a witch. They taunt Meena daily, from a safe distance. Sometimes they ventured closer, but always ran away before Meena could catch them. Klaus noticed a young girl inside Meena’s house.
“Look,” Klaus shouted. “Fat Meena has a little girl at her house!”
“Imprisoned . . . “ Thomas stammered.
“Next time it’s our turn,” Christa shivered.
The kids tried to find a solution and save the girl. They wrote the word “witch” on the sidewalk with an arrow pointing to Meena’s house. Meena never moved and the girl continued to be seen inside Meena’s house. The little girl was playing by a wall next to Meena’s house and saw a word on the sidewalk.
“W-I-T-C-H,” she spelled.
She turned her head in the direction of the arrow.
Christa, Klaus, and Thomas tried to tell her about Meena. It backfired on the kids. The little girl had her own ideas about Meena. The three neighbor kids did not believe the little girl. They figured she must be under a spell. After watching Meena dump a bucket of blood down the gutter, they feared even more for the little girl. They had to do something final about Meena, the witch.
Meena involves three kids who make horrible assumptions about one woman in their neighborhood. She is an extra-large sized woman who lives by herself. There is no indication that she had ever done anything to anyone, yet based on her appearance, and a few actions the kids misinterpret, they label Meena a witch. How sad!
The kids continue to make assumptions when they see a little girl inside Meena’s house. No kid would go into a witch’s house, so Meena must be holding the girl under duress and magical spells. Whatever Meena dumped down the gutter—which was red—the kids make incorrect assumptions once more. These assumptions help the kids keep their world as they see it. Listening to the little girl staying with Meena would mean change for the kids.
Even though it would be a good change—no witch—change is scary. The kids do not take any time to get to know Meena. They do not want to know her. They refuse to hear what the little girl—Anna—tells them about Meena. Why are they more comfortable with their horrible assumptions?
The illustrator has made most of her images look as if children had drawn them. The handwriting is imperfect and the drawings range from clothed stick figures to Halloween style masks for Meena’s face. The only perfect images are those that look like the illustrator added real items, mainly fancy buttons and the rose in Christa’s hair, which looks like a shiny sticker. The rose in Christa’s hair is an odd detail compared to the rest of the illustrations. On the blue outlined images of the kids, this rose is the only thing with color—perfect rose colors. Maybe it represents hope.
Meena is a good book for any kid who tends to make fast judgments, involved in many misunderstandings, or has trouble making friends. Meena shows that not everything is as one may think. Friends can be found in all sorts of places and when you least expect it—once you give others a chance, get to know them. I liked this story until it came to the end. For me, it seemed the story ended abruptly.
SPOILER ALERT! Two of the kids decide Meena is not a witch. They find out what the red was she dumped down the gutter. But, one of the kids, the one with the perfect rose in her hair, runs for her life, fearful that her two friends will be dead by morning. When they are not, she enthusiastically suggests they all go to “Grandma Meena’s.” Too abrupt a change, without the other two kids saying word one about Meena, the third is ready to visit. Too easy, even for a picture book. Or am I wrong?
United States Board on Books for Young People
Outstanding International Books (2012)
by Sine van Mol website blog facebook twitter Carianne Wijffels, illustrator website blog facebook twitter Eerdmans Books for Young Readers website blog facebook twitter Released 2011 ISBN: 978-0-8028-5394-3 32 Pages Ages 4 – 8 . © 2011 edition by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, used with permission. Text: Copyright © 2010 by Sine van Mol Illustrations © 2010 by Cariane Wijffels Originally released in Belgium
DONATED TO LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
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