Ostertag, Molly Knox. The Witch Boy. Graphix/Scholastic, 2017. $12.99. 213p. ISBN 978-1-338-08951-6. Ages 8-13. P8Q8
Gender issues are a subtle theme in the author’s debut graphic novel when 13-year-old Aster is kept from witchcraft because males are designated in his family to be only shape-shifters. Forced to hide his growing ability with witchery, he confesses his developing skill in casting spells to Charlie, a black girl with two fathers. She is the catalyst for Aster’s rescue of his cousins taken by a demon and his convincing his family—with the help of his grandmother—that witchery is not just for girls.
Verdict: The deep red-orange colors during the scenes with the demon are outstanding, and the differences in characters’ faces make them all stand out. The book addresses diversity and interracial marriage in a natural way, and the resolution of the gender stereotypes—although sometimes a bit heavy-handed—is well done. The 22 characters, four married couples with 13 children and a matriarch, could have been confusing, but the family tree, complete with illustrations, introducing the book gives assistance to any confusion. This impressive debut provides both character development and world-building, and the themes of acceptance of non-conforming and value of family relationships will be inviting to many readers. Hopefully Ostertag will provide a sequel.
December 2017 review by Nel Ward