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The Lunch Witch

Review

The Lunch Witch

Grunhilda’s family has been brewing up potions and curses for generations. Unfortunately, the modern world presents witches with problems far trickier (though no less troublesome) than those offered by an angry village mob or a pair of misplaced orphans.

Over the years, technology has replaced magic in the public imagination, and career opportunities for misanthropic old women have dwindled. Grunhilda is a real witch, wart and all, but is unable to shock the iPad generation, which has collectively abandoned any belief in magic. After she loses her job as a “fake witch” in a Salem haunted house, she is forced to admit that there are “not a lot of employment opportunities for someone who can make milk curdle just by breathing.”

"The first time I read the story, I went from cover to cover in one sitting."

And that’s when she spies a classified ad for the one job left that she can get:  “Good Cooks Need Not Apply.” After a quick interview, Grunhilda puts away the witch’s robe and cauldron and pulls out the equally sinister apron and mysteriously large pot of an elementary school lunch lady. Suddenly, she is frightening again, and anyone who has ever eaten a school lunch will recognize the fearful whispers that travel down the line about the “true” ingredients of each meal. 

Grunhilda thrives in this new nightmarish role, cackling with glee as her victims are forced to choose between hunger and, well, whatever is actually on their tray. But then she meets Madison, a distracted young student who seems as much as a stranger to the school as Grunhilda is to the rest of the world. If Grunhilda wants to keep her job, she is going to have to help Madison… which means violating the most important rule for a witch: “Never be nice!”

The thin line between the magical and the everyday has always been a theme in children’s stories, and THE LUNCH WITCH explores just how thin that line can be. Parents and adults will appreciate the eerie similarity between Grunhilda’s potion brewing and meal preparation, particularly after learning that her ancestor invented the “Hansel-and-Gretel pie.” The story is full of references to classic stories and often plays with the genre’s familiar storylines. In one exceptional scene, Grunhilda gathers ingredients for a potion in a contemporary health store. While everyone is familiar with the image of a witch rooting through her pantry for eye-of-newt or other such vile ingredients, one can’t help but sympathize with Grunhilda as she attempts to navigate an “all- natural, all-organic” supermarket for the first time.

The first time I read the story, I went from cover to cover in one sitting. At times, I found myself wondering if I had missed a panel or two, as the setting and plot sometimes jumped abruptly. During a second reading, it became clear that this was a fault of mine rather than the text. While the book does tell one continuous story, each “day” is separated into a chapter of its own. I would recommend reading this book over a period of time instead of downing it in one sitting. It will allow you to appreciate each individual chapter --- some of which are no longer than a few pages, but are strong enough to keep readers (or listeners) invested.

While THE LUNCH WITCH offers an amusing story, the illustrations are the book’s strongest asset. Each page looks like it was dragged out of the darkest pit of the grimmest bog and boiled in a pot of leeches for seven weeks --- and I mean that in the best way possible. Pages appear stained with whatever spilled off the lunchroom table (spaghetti? sloppy joe? boiled brains?), and the palette is composed only of the darkest and dingiest shades. Again, I say this with the utmost affection; it truly looks like something that crawled out of a cafeteria. Like a school lunch, THE LUNCH WITCH doesn’t look like you might expect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something to gobble up and enjoy.

Reviewed by Nate Einhorn on March 9, 2014

The Lunch Witch
by Deb Lucke

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2015
  • Genres: Comic Books, Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Papercutz
  • ISBN-10: 1629911623
  • ISBN-13: 9781629911625