by Belinda Anderson
In her fourth book, accomplished writer Belinda Anderson has created a middle-grade novel that sizzles with suspense. When a witch disembarks from the train in a small town of Glasglen, WV, fifth-grader Jackson McKinney's life is changed forever. Will he and his classmates find themselves the ingredients in Kid Soup? In this page turner, the bullied, friendless Jackson learns not only resourcefulness and courage, but also the importance of trust- of reaching out to friends. When a witch disembarks from the train in the
small town of Glasglen, fifth-grader Jackson McKinneyâ€™s life is changed
Sunday, October 19, 2014
WV Book Team: Witchy Wanda flies in for Halloween
By Cat Pleska
WV Book Team
â€œJackson vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup.â€ By Belinda Anderson. Mountain State Press (2013). 182 pages.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. â€” Thereâ€™s a new lady in town and sheâ€™s hungry!
Witchy Wanda doesnâ€™t ride into town on a broom; rather, she pulls into town on a train.
No matter! Sheâ€™s a bona fide witch and her plan is to entice children into her cauldron. They make tasty soups!
In Andersonâ€™s first middle-grade novel, the author tells the tale of 10-year-old Jackson McKinney, who is the only one who sees right through Witchy Wandaâ€™s ruse.
His task throughout the book is to gather evidence on Double Wâ€™s movements (as Jackson thinks of her) and to convince his classmates something funny is going on before they become munchies.
Set in the charming little town of imaginary Glasglen, West Virginia (modeled after Alderson), Jackson is a lonely little boy who nonetheless finds much resourcefulness and courage within himself as he battles the powerful Witchy Wanda.
Feeling somewhat outcast because he suffers hearing problems, other kids make fun of Jacksonâ€™s hearing apparatus and one bully in particular further picks on Jackson.
It doesnâ€™t help that the local policeman, a potential ally, is determined to keep Jackson on the straight and narrow, but ultimately fails to help and nearly becomes soup himself.
Jackson also faces difficulties within his family. His parents question his actions, and Jackson feels he canâ€™t confide in them. The only supporter in his household is his grandfather, who forgets a lot.
The grandfather gifts Jackson with a â€œluckyâ€ Indian Head penny, making Jackson feel empowered â€” until he loses the penny to the bully.
Double W, meanwhile, uses Halloween as an excuse to lure the neighborhood children to her home and into her cauldron. She casts spells on them so that they willingly step into a hot pot of water.
Aware like no one else, Jackson has to stay on his toes to protect the classmates who canâ€™t see Double W for what she is.
Mixed in with this bit of â€œfunâ€ are real-life issues that each of us may identify with. Thereâ€™s not one of us who hasnâ€™t been bullied at some point in our lives. Jacksonâ€™s response is truly inspired as he works to keep the bully at bay and finds a most satisfying way to deal with the ridicule.
Although Alzheimerâ€™s disease is not mentioned, even a young reader may recognize the troubles with Jacksonâ€™s grandfather, and maybe this story will help readers better understand what it means to live with a loved one who is forgetful.
Mystery builds upon mystery in this engaging tale. Witchy Wanda is pure fun â€” to the reader, that is. Not so much to the children in the story who are potential snacks. But older readers can appreciate the complex relationships developed in the story â€” lost family and connections help deepen the meaning of this engaging fiction.
Itâ€™s a thinking personâ€™s wild ride but also one that is perfect fun for any time, but especially for the upcoming Halloween season.
â€œWitchy Wanda! Witchy Wanda! Making Kid Soup!â€
Cat Pleska is a writer, educator and publisher. She is the president of Mountain State Press and an essayist at West Virginia Public Radio. Her website is www.catpleska.com, and she can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.