Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth by E. L. Kongsburg

I picked up this book because it had earned a Newbery Honor, and was written by the same author who wrote From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a Newbery winner. The book was written in the 1960s, so there are some elements that are outdated, but a good story is a good story, and this one has passed the test of time.
This is a middle-grade book told from the point of view of Elizabeth, an only child who is new to her apartment, awkward, and short. She meets a girl named Jennifer who is quite strange, claiming to be a witch. Throughout the novel, the reader is only given Elizabeth’s perspective, so we are always wondering whether Jennifer really is a witch. Certainly Elizabeth believes she is. Jennifer initiates Elizabeth into the world of witchcraft with a series of strange and coincidental requirements. One week she must consume raw eggs—something her mother is thrilled about because Elizabeth is a picky eater (remember, it was written in the 1960s). Another time, she is given a list of restrictions that prevent her from partaking in activities at a party but end up working in her favor. I won’t reveal the ending, or whether Jennifer really is a witch.
What I enjoyed about the book was the voice. Elizabeth’s voice is genuine and honest. She is never trying to show off. As readers, we trust her immediately to tell her perception of the truth. The book only tells the important elements of the story, so I never felt like my time was being wasted. It’s a middle-grade book, so it’s meant for younger readers and therefore was a quick read for me. I read it in two sittings (it would have been one if I had more free time!). From a writer’s perspective, the book is a good study in the building of suspense from a subjective point of view. My least favorite element was the ending, which I feel wrapped up too quickly, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I missed reading it as a child, but it was definitely something I would have enjoyed—and read more than once.

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