I had never read The Witches, but had once seen the movie (though it was long ago), so all I remembered going into this is that it had to do with witches and mice... since we've been on a Roald Dahl mission, we had to read it.
The Story: The books starts out unceremoniously with the death of the narrator's parents in a car crash. This tragedy puts him in the care of his Norwegian grandmother, who tries to lighten his somber mood by telling him stories of witches. When they have to move back to his home in England, and end up taking a holiday at a fancy hotel, they come face to face with a whole slew of witches, who have a devious plan to turn all the children in England into mice! Unfortunately for the boy, they start with him. However, he finds that he rather likes being a mouse, and maybe by being a mouse, he has a unique advantage in trying to stop the witches...
The Good: The boy's grandmother is wonderfully written. She's compassionate and kind and accepting. The boy's own acceptance (and even happiness) of becoming a mouse makes the whole metamorphosis a little less disturbing. As always, Dahl captures joy and humor in unexpected places.
The Bad: Those witches are scary! Anyone could be a witch, as they are masters of disguise. If your child is the nervous kind, this could upset them. The boy's grandmother smokes a cigar, and while it is always described as "stinking" and "foul," it might take explaining. The way that his parents are killed off and then never spoken of again except in passing is a little disturbing, too. It is typical of Dahl, though.
The Verdict: Very good, and funny, though not my favorite Dahl. It is recommended for ages 7-12 on Amazon, and I'd say that's about right. It was a good read, and Evalina liked it, but as I said... not my favorite. Still, definitely worth the read.