Michael Gruber, Author . HarperTempest $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-076164-6

Gruber (Tropic of Night , for adults) creates a parenting parable that may appeal more to adults than to teens, especially when the central parent character here is more sympathetic than the child. "Mothering was simply more difficult than I ever imagined,' admits the unnamed witch of the title, a decade after she finds an abandoned baby boy and decides to raise the child rather than eat him. The witch calls the infant Lump, and places him in the care of a she-bear nanny. Lump ("part pig in his snout [with] doggy ears") is sullen and ungrateful. Despite leading, literally, a charmed life, he seeks the companionship of human children, who then torture him. When his mother refuses to exact revenge, Lump turns to a djinn who, in exchange for the djinn's freedom from his bond to the witch, kills the menacing children and their family. This settling of scores upsets nature's "Pattern," putting Lump, his mother, the cat and the she-bear in grave danger. Gruber's story is a mélange of fairy-tale retellings (the witch has played roles in Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella; Lump makes friends with Hansl and Gretl), but the allusions—except for Lump's infatuation with the miller's daughter—do not add up. (Lump's mother "draws down his name" in a Faery ceremony, and the boy turns out to have a memorable moniker.) Inventive details such as Lump's cradle, which rocks itself and croons lullabies, will charm, but the languorous pace and muddled message will likely make it off-putting to teens. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/21/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4169-0139-6
Paperback - 377 pages - 978-0-06-076167-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-084208-6
Library Binding - 377 pages - 978-0-06-076165-3
Compact Disc - 7 pages - 978-0-06-078596-3
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-60514-976-9
Hardcover - 391 pages - 978-0-7862-8580-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-084209-3
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