The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

The Witch Boy

In thirteen-year-old Aster's family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn't shifted . . . and he's still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help -- as a...

Title:The Witch Boy
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The Witch Boy Reviews

  • Davey

    (The bookstore where I work received an ARC of this today from Scholastic and, as it was a particularly slow day, I read it all in one go while standing behind the cash register.)

    I loved it. I loved the world right away--in fact, I wished it were longer (or perhaps the beginning of a series) just because the magic was so interesting. I really dug the artwork, too, of course. It felt very organic. But also magical. And I liked the character designs.

    But mostly it was just such a compelling metaph

    (The bookstore where I work received an ARC of this today from Scholastic and, as it was a particularly slow day, I read it all in one go while standing behind the cash register.)

    I loved it. I loved the world right away--in fact, I wished it were longer (or perhaps the beginning of a series) just because the magic was so interesting. I really dug the artwork, too, of course. It felt very organic. But also magical. And I liked the character designs.

    But mostly it was just such a compelling metaphor for being "Other," gender-wise. It really hit me in a soft spot in a way that, to be honest, not a lot of middle-grade books do. It captured so well and in such a short space the yearning for something that society says you aren't supposed to have--it captured equally well the putrescence of the soul that can grow when you're denied your true self.

  • Lola  Reviewer

    This works very well as a standalone. I don’t feel as if there are unanswered questions or elements missing. Still, I wish to read more books about Aster and his magical community.

    The characters are strong. They all play a certain role in the story. It’s when you can’t imagine a book without its different characters that you realize they’ve left an impression on you and are worthy of being in the story.

    Aster is so relatable. In his world, women are witches who manipulate magic and men are shap

    This works very well as a standalone. I don’t feel as if there are unanswered questions or elements missing. Still, I wish to read more books about Aster and his magical community.

    The characters are strong. They all play a certain role in the story. It’s when you can’t imagine a book without its different characters that you realize they’ve left an impression on you and are worthy of being in the story.

    Aster is so relatable. In his world, women are witches who manipulate magic and men are shape shifters who turn into a certain animal and protect the community. But Aster can’t shape shift, and anyway, he doesn’t want to. It’s not him. Witchery calls to him instead.

    His situation is similar to many other people’s situations, even in our contemporary society without magic. These feelings of wanting to be whoever we are but fearing ostracism are universal. It wasn’t hard for me to connect with Astrid, and I believe it won’t be hard for other readers either.

    The illustrations are SPLENDID. My advance copy only had a few pages in color, but I’m sure the final book will be MAGNIFICENT. Very interesting story and formidable diverse characters. Too bad I have to say goodbye to them so soon.

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  • Stacy Fetters

    From page one, I was trapped in a magical world that I didn't want to escape from. The story was very different from what is being released that I didn't want it to end.

    The art was exceptional. Can't wait for the actual release to see all the artwork in full color. The first few pages were in color and it made the story pop in a different light.

    All magic has rules and if we disobey them, something horrible

    From page one, I was trapped in a magical world that I didn't want to escape from. The story was very different from what is being released that I didn't want it to end.

    The art was exceptional. Can't wait for the actual release to see all the artwork in full color. The first few pages were in color and it made the story pop in a different light.

    All magic has rules and if we disobey them, something horrible may fall. What happens if the only way to save people is to break the rules and use magic? Would you do it? Even if it meant life or death?

  • Lorie Barber

    Aster lives in a magical community where boys shapeshift and girls practice witchcraft, yet he can't shapeshift but shows promise in the magical arts. The problem? His family freaks out when they see him trying to practice magic. However, when the community is threatened by a demon, Aster's powers may help save them. But will Aster be brave enough to show everyone who he truly is?

    At first, I absolutely LOVED this middle grade graphic novel debut. I read it as an extended metaphor for anyone who

    Aster lives in a magical community where boys shapeshift and girls practice witchcraft, yet he can't shapeshift but shows promise in the magical arts. The problem? His family freaks out when they see him trying to practice magic. However, when the community is threatened by a demon, Aster's powers may help save them. But will Aster be brave enough to show everyone who he truly is?

    At first, I absolutely LOVED this middle grade graphic novel debut. I read it as an extended metaphor for anyone who feels like they can't be who they truly are because they fear being bullied or ostracized. The diversity of characters and the normalization (YAY!) of LGBTQ issues were also present, and were especially fun (and original) to read in a fantasy setting.

    But then a member of my book group brought up some points I hadn't considered (and maybe a blind spot I need to look at) that made me think more. The character of Mikasi identified as a witch (female) as a child, but was shunned because males working with witchcraft goes against the community's gender norms. The shunning results in him turning evil. Mikasa returns, taking & turning some of the younger boys against the community.

    The dangers brought to my attention are two-fold: one, the message that that trans people prey on children. Two, that trans people are mentally ill and that if society doesn't accept them -- not because of who they are, but because they are dangerous -- they are going to harm us in some way. These misguided stereotypes are the basis for the anti-trans legislation that some states are passing.

    So I did some due diligence, bringing the book to a family member who is also a member of the trans community. He rad the book, and didn't feel that the Mikasi character was stereotype that would affect the trans community in a negative way. He was very happy that the family learned from their mistakes with Mikasi, this leading Aster to have a very different life. He also liked the normalization of LGBTQ issues (Charlie has two dads) that we're so casually scattered throughout the book.

    So I will, with pride, be adding this book to my classroom library at the recommendation of my nephew.

  • Rachael Hobson

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars

    This is a really lovely story. It's a morality story with a magical twist. Let people be who they truly are!

    This is a middle grade novel, which is probably why the story moved as fast as it did. I personally wish there was more detail in regards to both the build up and climax of the story.

  • Anne

    This is a charming and quick graphic novel that should appeal to middle grade readers who love magic. Aster lives in a society where girls learn spell casting and boys learn to shapeshift. But shifting hasn't come easily for Aster and he finds himself far more interested in witchcraft, which he's forbidden to study.

    The art is lovely, telling the story in bright full-color panels, and the worldbuilding is very well done.

    There's a solid lesson at the center of this book about learning to accept wh

    This is a charming and quick graphic novel that should appeal to middle grade readers who love magic. Aster lives in a society where girls learn spell casting and boys learn to shapeshift. But shifting hasn't come easily for Aster and he finds himself far more interested in witchcraft, which he's forbidden to study.

    The art is lovely, telling the story in bright full-color panels, and the worldbuilding is very well done.

    There's a solid lesson at the center of this book about learning to accept who you are and the importance of parents, friends, etc providing support to a child who feels different. It's also a decent reminder to all readers that wonderful things can happen when you stop pretending and instead be true to yourself.

  • Korrina  (OwlCrate)

    Such a cute little graphic novel that challenges gender constructs in a unique way. Plus it's just a fun spooky magical story! My only complaint was that I wish it was a bit longer and more fleshed out. But I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Gemma

    Though the main character is 13, I think that his story and experiences are accessible to a variety of ages. The very personal, intimate look we have into Aster's experience as a boy who's supposed to shape-shift, but feels more inclined/is gifted to witchery, makes this story very powerful and evocative. I couldn't help but be drawn into the narrative and feel Aster's loneliness, small comforts in the form of practicing witchery and meeting Charlie, and his rise in self-confidence.

    The story is

    Though the main character is 13, I think that his story and experiences are accessible to a variety of ages. The very personal, intimate look we have into Aster's experience as a boy who's supposed to shape-shift, but feels more inclined/is gifted to witchery, makes this story very powerful and evocative. I couldn't help but be drawn into the narrative and feel Aster's loneliness, small comforts in the form of practicing witchery and meeting Charlie, and his rise in self-confidence.

    The story is a good blend of experience, reflection, and action; there is little violence or blood, because the focus is more on Aster's decision-making and strategizing, rather than a gory battle, to solve the issues.

    The artwork is colorful, open and welcoming, detailed yet not overwhelming. I think the author/illustrator does a wonderful job of visually depicting events that cannot otherwise be explained, such as when Aster feels confused about something or when he loses his voice.

    Definitely recommend for middle grade + students!

  • Barbara

    In this graphic novel that challenges gender roles and stereotypes, thirteen-year-old Aster is sure he has the ability to become a witch. But in his family, only girls can become witches while boys are destined to be shapeshifters. While he waits to find out the animal shape into which he will shift and soaks up everything he can about spells and magic, three family members disappear. Aster comes under suspicion because he's different from his other family members. He finds solace and friendship

    In this graphic novel that challenges gender roles and stereotypes, thirteen-year-old Aster is sure he has the ability to become a witch. But in his family, only girls can become witches while boys are destined to be shapeshifters. While he waits to find out the animal shape into which he will shift and soaks up everything he can about spells and magic, three family members disappear. Aster comes under suspicion because he's different from his other family members. He finds solace and friendship in a girl who knows nothing of magic but encourages him to do what he does best. Eventually, he even heals her broken leg, and the two combine forces to do battle against the evil spirit that has two of the boys still in its thrall. I liked this book for its challenging of what boys and girls can do and for its interesting family dynamics. While there could be other titles coming after this one, it works just fine on its own. I'd have liked a little more back story provided so it was clear how the family manages to survive and thrive in a magical world that seems to exist alongside a nonmagical one. There are quite a few characters introduced, but then we never return to them, which makes me wonder if they will assume importance in (possible) future titles. Middle graders and late intermediate readers are sure to enjoy this graphic novel with rich colors in every panel.

  • Alicia Romero

    Loved this! An adorable read about challenging norms and being yourself.

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