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The Witches of Worm Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Zilpha Keatley Snyder is the author of The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm, all Newbery Honor Books. Her most recent books include The Treasures of Weatherby, The Bronze Pen, William S. and the Great Escape, and Williams Midsummer Dreams. She lives in Mill Valley, California.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Inside Flap
Worm. Jessica wishes she'd never brought Worm home with her, because now he's making her do terrible things. She's sure she isn't imagining the evil voice coming from the cat, telling her to play mean tricks on people. But how can she explain what's happening?
Witches. Jessica has read enoughbooks to know that Worm must be a witch's cat. He's cast a spell on her, but whom can she turn to? After all, no one will believe that Worm has bewitched her...or worse! --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00850REKQ
- Publisher : Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (23 October 2012)
- Language : English
- File size : 12277 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 196 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,293,113 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from other countries
In fact, "The Witches of Worm" is shockingly good. It's a thriller for children ages 9-12, the target audience of the Newbery books. The only reason this book is in the children's section is that the main character is 12 years old. In fact, this book is transitional to the young adult category which can visit more controversial subject matter.
Witches. Hmmm, an unusual topic for children 9-12. Jessica checks out from the public library a book about the witches of Salem. She's reading it in her favorite place--a nook, a cave in the face of a hill near the apartment she shares with her mother. Twilight comes. Then a rustle, then a mew. There's a tiny kitten wriggling along the dirt. Where did it come from? Where is its mother? And those eyes, or lack of eyes. What's wrong with it? But the landlady is a cat lover, so Jessica scoops it up to show Mrs. Fortune, a woman who knows many things.
Thus begins "The Witches of Worm." Mrs. Fortune almost forces the kitten on Jessica, to her care, although Jessica has never liked cats. The kitten is not eyeless--it's just a kitten whose eyes have not yet opened. Jessica must feed it every two hours and wipe its bottom. Jessica calls it Worm because it wiggles like a worm and is also hairless. It's an Abyssinian, according to Mrs. Fortune, the hairless Egyptian cat. You see? Mrs. Fortune knows many things.
Are you beginning to feel the hairs along the back of your neck shiver just the tiniest bit?
Jessica spends much of her free time alone. Her former best friend, Brandon, who also lives in the small apartment building, has moved on to male buddies and trumpet lessons. Her two best girl friends are also gone. And Joy, her beautiful mother? She spends her evenings elsewhere with Alan, her newest boyfriend who is talking commitment (but not as a father).
That leaves Jessica and Worm. Worm, Worm, Worm, that troublesome cat. Why, he has begun to talk to Jessica, invade her thoughts, make her do things. Joy finally has Jessica talk to the school counselor who gives her a photo as basis for a psychological story, a story that becomes profoundly disturbing. The photo, a black and white, shows a baby on a blanket near an older woman. As Jessica describes the story, the old woman leaves. It's not her baby. No one knows who the baby is, where it belongs, or why it's there. Finally, someone covers it up. End of story.
This is not a book for the tender-hearted. In fact, as librarian, I would put this book only into the hands of that upper age group, as a provocative book meant for a mature reader. I don't want to reveal anything more, except to declare there is a "happy" ending to this story about serious things. There's redemption but without the hammer of didacticism.
For such a powerful book, why didn't "The Witches of Worm" win the gold medal in 1973? Julie of the Wolves (rack) did. Gold and Honor--yep, a mighty combination. Both are must-reads!
***** UPDATE :: 20-Feb-2013 :: UPDATE *****
(1) A bunch of Zilpha Keatley Snyder items, "The Witches Of Worm" among many others, have FINALLY been made available for Kindle -- Yay! -- and I've just bought my copy!!! Wa-HOOOO!!!
KINDLE VERSION: "The Witches of Worm"
(2) "The Witches Of Worm" has been republished, with a new Introduction by the Author. Now, frankly, I generally hate it when authors do this because, while the corpus of the book may be unchanged, collectors will have to buy the new version because technically it's a "new" book -- in other words, adding a new introduction is usually a quick "money-maker" for the author, nothing more. In this case, however, Mrs. Snyder does give us historical information regarding the genesis of "The Witches of Worm", explaining how she came to write it, and so forth, which makes it of marginal value; so I give my grudging apporoval on that ground. But she also has some controversial words to say. On which subject...
(3) In her Introduction, Mrs. Snyder says, in relevant part, "...Like Ann [i.e., Ann Putnam, who started the Salem Witch trial hysteria], Jessica in The Witches of Worm allows herself to do cruel, even evil things and excuses herself by saying, and almost believing, that 'something made me do it' -- the something in Ann's case being the accused witches, and in Jessica's case her 'evil' cat." (Note well that because I'm quoting, what I've put in single-quotes here is in double-quotes in the actual book.)
By this phraseology, Mrs. Snyder seems to makes the very strong suggestion that Worm WAS NEVER REALLY POSSESSED, but that Jessica merely IMAGINED that he was!!! EXCEPT... how does one explain Worm's vehement, and not to mention conveniently-timed -- one might almost call it theatrically choreographed! -- responses to being "exorcised"?
Frankly, whether Worm really is "possessed", or this is merely a self-delusion on Jessica's part, is totally moot to the story. To have us distracted with such an irrelevancy is profoundly distressing to me; it's so completely and gratuitously unnecessary. The whole point of this book is one of personal responsibility; this would remain true, whether Worm was possessed or not. Why, at this late date, Mrs. Snyder would wish to stir up controversy by even raising the issue, I cannot even begin to imagine. Without the supernatural element to Worm, what of the story is left? A partly schizophrenic child wrestling with her own conscience??? Who the %#!@ wants to read THAT?! O.K., let's imagine there is someone who does. Doesn't Mrs. Snyder see that this changes the whole story? It might, for all I know, be an interesting story for some people -- but it wouldn't be the SAME story. And that's my point.
Personally, I happen to disagree with Mrs. Snyder. Yes, yes, I know, I know -- "But she's the AUTHOR!" Nevertheless, author or no, I believe that actual the possession of Worm by an evil entity makes the most logical story sense. BUT -- and please do take note! -- even in that case, the most that the entity is able to do is to make suggestions. Actually ACTING upon those suggestions is left entirely up to Jessica herself. That is, the entity can tempt, but it cannot compel -- in other words, and to repeat what I said of Jessica in my original review above, "her free will is never in fact violated."
Oh. One last nitpick -- and an extremely odd one -- regarding Mrs. Snyder's peculiar choice of wording: She says in her Introduction that Jessica blames "her 'evil' cat", but surely Mrs. Snyder does not believe it is the cat which is evil? Not even JESSICA believes that. Surely it is the entity POSSESSING Worm which is evil, and not Worm himself (or, if so you will, "so Jessica believes").
(4) Jessica's pyschological test... hmmm. I didn't include this in my original review, because I didn't consider it relevant to the main plot, but I have reconsidered. It occurs to me that the incident might have other insights to offer than mere plot relevance. Therefore, I will now include it.
But a few words of caveat are warranted first. I notice that a lot of you are commenting how "creepy" the Psychological Test incident is, etc.
Uhm, guys? You DO realize, don't you, that Jessica isn't real? That she's a fictional character? And that her responses to the psychological test she was given are therefore equally fictional? In other words, that the reason that the test is so "creepy", is simply that Mrs. Snyder WROTE it that way, and NOT (as many of you, to judge by your reactions, would seem to think) because Jessica is an actual, emotionally disturbed child?
DO, please, keep in mind that Mrs. Snyder almost certainly "reverse-engineered" Jessica's test responses. That is, while a real "Psych Test" extracts real information from real persons, Mrs. Snyder created certain responses independently, and then put them into the head and mouth of her fictional character (i.e., Jessica) for dramatic purposes. I've no doubt whatever that Mrs. Snyder extensively researched the Psychological Test incident, and most likely involved an actual child psychologist in its creation. That's a "hat's off" to Mrs. Snyder, but it's no comment upon Jessica herself!
And as an aside (and for the same reason), I'd caution against regarding this incident as any evidence of the effectiveness of this type of psychological testing. That's as may be; but do remember that THIS test is fictional, and that Jessica's responses are "reverse-engineered". If they seem a perfect fit for her, that's only because they were WRITTEN that way.
Now then: all of that having being said, if Jessica's psychological test isn't particularly relevant to the main plot of the story, then of what interest is it?
The main points of interest are, I think, three in number.
The first, and most obvious, is also unfortunately by far the least satisfactory. I mean the question of what happens as a result of it. The book's climax and ending follow so quickly after the Psych Test that the poor school psychologist is given no opportunity to formulate a report, let alone make any recommendations. One almost wishes that Mrs. Snyder had extended the book's ending by a day or so; his recommendations might well have included psychological counselling for both Jessica AND her mother Joy, and given the emotional atmosphere following Worm's exorcism, this is conceivably something Joy might just possibly have agreed to; we'd have been left with the hope that they would both, in time, have become a less dysfunctional pair. But this possibility, alas, has not been left open to us.
A second, and far more elusive, point, is a purely literary one: that Mrs. Snyder had to walk a very narrow tightrope. On the one hand, the symbolism Jessica displays in her repsonses to the Psych Test couldn't be too obvious, because Jessica was being intentionally secretive and evasive. She wanted to WITHHOLD information, not give it away! On the other had, that same symbolism couldn't be too obtuse, either, because Mrs. Snyder was writing for 12-year-olds, who can't be expected to decipher very complex imagery.
And overarching all of this, was the requirement that the symbolism had to come through clearly to the READER, yet be totally opaque to Jessica herself (because if it was not, she would certainly have changed it).
That Mrs. Snyder was able to accomplish all of this, and do it plausibly, in my opinion speaks to her authorial genius.
The third and last (but by no means least) point, is that it is a perfect example of "not seeing the forest for the trees". Not that it's a "real-life" example (remember, the test is "reverse-engineered") but it's an excellent illustration of how the "not-seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees" phenomenon occurs. So intent is Jessica upon not giving away any information on her "real problems" that she forgets the "Big Picture", and in so doing paradoxically ends up by painting that "Big Picture" with immense clarity. "She [Jessica] felt good, too" (Mrs. Snyder writes), "that she'd written about something that would really keep Mr. Weaver [the school psychologist] guessing -- something that had nothing to do with anything real at all." When I read that, I laughed right out loud. Oh, Jessie, Baby! The story Jessica writes absolutely SCREAMS "Isolation, Alienation, Disaffection, Loneliness, Abandonment, and being Buried under the Detrius of Life" for the infant she depicts -- all of which fits Jessica to a "T", and all of which she would sooner have DIED than give away consciously!
If there is any negative point I could make about the Psych Test, it is its placement within the story. It's really good at conveying Jessica's personality (which is what it was designed for); but coming as it does so late in the story, it is hardly needed for that purpose -- by that time, we already HAVE a good handle on her personality -- so that the reader can hardly be blamed for wondering why it is there. Jessica herself is afraid of it because (she does not put it in these words) she fears it will be the cause of her being institutionalized as mentally unstable. Still, any sensible reader -- even a 12-year-old -- should realize that this is impossible -- that a mere Psychological Test CANNOT accomplish an involuntary commitment. In fact, I'm astonished that Jessica doesn't perceive this herself (but then, I suppose she is too far in the grip of fear)...
I'm glad I reviewed the Psych Test after all -- there's a lot more to it than I realized at first; and if its purpose is a tad unclear it is, at any rate, a first-class masterstroke of writing!
In conclusion, I agree, wholeheartedly, with other reviewers here: "The Witches of Worm" deserves its Newberry! There is no other book quite like it, and I should know -- I've actively searched for one! In what other book will you find a story involving a child interacting, conversationally, with an supernatural, evil entity, who tempts and cajoles (but cannot compel) the said child into commiting a series of increasingly vile acts? To which entity this child -- even against his or her own better judgement -- returns again and again, to seek vengence, or even just from sheer loneliness? In what other story must this child ultimately confront his or her own personal responsibility, and the morality of what he or she is really doing, before finally battling to banish that very entity with whom he or she has developed this uneasy relationship?
If THAT is the sort of story you seek, then you will only find ONE book that fits the bill: and that book is "The Witches Of Worm". This story is "sui generis" -- is stands ALONE.