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The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli
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The Magic Circle

by Donna Jo Napoli

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2821239,987 (3.88)1 / 2

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
OMG. Resembles Grimm's version of the Hansel & Gretel story very little. About 2/3 of the very short novel tells how the witch became a hermit in a cottage made of candy. It's not a story of the children's courage, but a fable of what can happen to single mothers who want the best for the own child but only have talents that make the community uncomfortable. Intense. It looks like a book for 8 year-olds, but I'd not readily recommend it for under 12.

One interesting thing is that 'diamonds on the soles of her shoes' was a motif... but used in a manner that doesn't appear to have anything to do with how Paul Simon used the phrase... or does it? And is Napoli paying homage to Simon, or are they both referencing older folklore? I tried to learn more but couldn't. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Rating: 4 of 5

Hansel and Gretel told through the Witch whose fatal flaw was hubris and also, perhaps, her devotion to both her daughter and God. Tragic from start to finish. And yet another fine example that maybe not all fairytale villains were truly evil. Quick must-read for fans of retellings. ( )
  flying_monkeys | Jul 29, 2014 |
This version of the famous story of Hansel and Gretel and their encounter with a candied house and the witch inside is told from the perspective of the witch. The novel begins with The Ugly One as a pious Christian midwife and follows her as she is encouraged by a neighbor to become a healer--a sorceress. She serves her village well for many years until she makes a fatal mistake one day and is from then on doomed to serve demons as a witch. She flees, leaving behind her cherished daughter, and the story picks up with the one most of us are familiar with--but with more details. She has iron teeth, can shape-change and cannot bleed or cry. The story is told as though the Ugly One is somewhat narrating to herself: "I run at first randomly. Just away. Keeping far from villages. . . . When I come to a lake, I know I must metamorphose once more. . . . I must be as revolting to others as I am to myself" (p 65). Napoli's writing is intense and rife with strong emotions as The Ugly One struggles from the first page to the last. For this, I believe The Magic Circle earns a 5Q.

Because not everyone is interested in re-written and re-imagined fairy and folk tales, I am not confident enough that this is a 5P. I am certain the empathy Napoli helps readers to develop for this witch and the near-tangible horror and disgust she has for herself as well as the love and compassion held by several characters will reach out to many readers making is have broad general or genre YA appeal. ( )
  Lomilia | Jun 3, 2013 |
Well, that was depressing.

I've read my share of "other side of the coin" retold fairy tales, and I have to say, this is probably the grimmest (no pun intended); the story itself has only a couple of gruesome little moments, but the whole tone is so relentlessly dark and dank that it became a chore to read. This, combined with the narrator's detachment - part religious fervor, part mental instability - had me ready for the end by halfway through this tiny little book. Napoli's idea - changing the witch of Hansel and Gretel into a pious midwife led to sin by a love of pretty things - is intriguing, but although the different elements of the fairy tale are covered well, my basic interest in the story sank once I made it through the first few chapters. "It's never going to let up," I thought to myself - and it never did. ( )
  saroz | Aug 2, 2011 |
Hansel and Gretel revisited. Interesting take. I was put off by too much god/demons. A little grizzly. ( )
  navelos | Jul 6, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Donna Jo Napoliprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Lucia Monfried, who told, "Just write it down." With a sea of gratitude.
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Summer comes over the hill like a hairy blanket.
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After learning sorcery to become a healer, a good-hearted woman is turned into a witch by evil spirits and she fights their power until her encounter with Hansel and Gretel years later.

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