The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Written in 1970, Witches of Worm introduces us to a very different kind of middle-grade. In this short book, Jessica is a twelve-year-old girl who “rescues” a cat she names Worm, only to discover the decision may lead to her own demise.
Jessica has read enough books to know that her cat Worm must be a witch’s cat. He’s cast a spell on her, but to whom can she turn? After all, no one will believe that Worm has bewitched her . . . or worse…
Kat Mandu says…
Maybe people who read this in the seventies wouldn’t have realized that the lead character of Witches of Worm, Jessica, is actually well on her way to becoming a sociopath. Seriously, this girl has some issues. She can lie well and displace the blame just as easily. Not to mention she says some pretty creepy stuff to Worm – threatening to abuse him, to stop feeding him, pinning the blame on him for all her silly, childish pranks. There are several incidences where she’s physically cruel to Worm, and also a mention of how she beats a dog with a stick and her friend Brandon had to stop her. And overall, she’s angry and bitter. If it hadn’t been for her regret at the end, I’d say she was definitely going to lead a very dark life.
However, she’s also very young and doesn’t exactly have the best role model in her life, as her mother is never around and when she is, she tries to be manipulative and emotional.
This story isn’t really about witchcraft or magic, like I originally thought it might be given the title. But it does make you wonder about the different devils in everyone, and how many are able to shove aside the guilt for their mistakes onto someone else. Really, that’s what this book is about. In it, Jessica does a lot of bad things – pull pranks on her paranoid landlord’s wife, shrink her mother’s dress on purpose, shove Brandon’s trumpet out a high window and break it. She then convinces herself that her creepy-looking cat is the culprit behind her evil acts. But really, she’s just messed up. A messed up kid, but messed up nevertheless.
It’s also rather about forgiveness in a way.
I was intrigued by this story and all its weird interactions. I don’t really read stuff written this long ago unless it’s a “classic.” Or at least not kid’s books. So I give it a four because the plot really hooked me.