Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #12, Witch in the House

  • Title: Witch in the House
  • Author & illustrator: Ruth Chew (1920-2010)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • Year: 1975
  • Excerpt:
    "Sally was still sitting on the ceiling by the window. She was sucking the end of the pencil stub. When Laura and Jane came into the room she held out the sheet of paper. 'I made a list of things to use in a simple cold brew. Do you think you could get these?'

    "Laura took the paper and read aloud:
    • 1 live frog, toad, or 3 good-sized tadpoles
    • 1/2 tablespoonful of ground glass
    • 1 cup of swamp water
    • 1 jellyfish
    • 1 sprig fresh poison ivy
    "'Are you sure you need all of this stuff, Sally?'"
  • Notes: Let's start with two things: (1) If you were in grade school in the 1970s or 1980s and bought books through Scholastic, you were almost certainly familiar with Ruth Chew, who wrote more than two dozen fantasy titles like Witch in the House; (2) Ruth Chew might be the coolest author featured in this ongoing series, and that's saying something, because we've had many cool authors so far. ... Chew, who did her own illustrations for most of her books, must have enjoyed writing about witches and magic. She had at least 11 books with "Witch" in the title and at least another 11 books with "Magic" in the title. Those were her niches. ... Here's an excerpt from the Chew obituary that Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle penned in 2010:
    Ruth Chew, who turned her love of black cats, magic potions and pointy hats into a successful literary career, died of pneumonia May 13 in Castro Valley.

    Mrs. Chew, 90, had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for about nine years.

    "Ruth Chew wrote about witches and wizards and covens and broomsticks and black cats, but have no fear of these witches," wrote a fan, Lucy Day of Singapore, on a Ruth Chew Web site after Mrs. Chew's death. "If anything, they will teach young readers the values of friendship, independence and self-esteem, since that's what the books are really about." ...

    Mrs. Chew was born in Minneapolis, but grew up in Washington, D.C. Her father was a journalist who had been ousted from Canada for his pacifist views during World War I, and her mother was a kindergarten teacher who had grown up in Burma.

    "She loved fantasy from the beginning," her daughter, Eve Sprunt of Dublin, wrote in an e-mail. "She made up stories about the small porcelain dolls that lived in a dollhouse made from orange crates."

    Mrs. Chew graduated from high school at age 16, excelling in every subject but math because "she didn't believe 2 plus 2 equals 4," her daughter wrote.
    The website referred to in that excerpt is www.ruthchew.com, maintained by Lucy Day Hobor, and it is stellar. It contains biographical information and photos, detailed information about all of Chew's books, and information about how you can purchase the new editions of Chew's books that Random House has been issuing since last year. (It's a great model and execution for a fan website about an author. I should do one like that for Ruth Manning-Sanders. Unfortunately, the part where her books are released in new editions hasn't happened yet.)

Did you read Ruth Chew books when you were in school? Do you still have them? Which one was your favorite, and why? I'd love to read some memories of this author in the comments section.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh! This was a favourite of mine as a child and I have been looking through used book stores for years to find a copy.