Prelutsky, Jack. 1976. Wild Witches' Ball. Ill. by Kelly Asbury. New York: Harpers Collins Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0060529725
Mr. Prelutsky has given young children a funny presentation of a normally scary topic: witches- witches having a ball at a ball just right for witches. Cartoon drawings fill every page using every color imaginable with "witchy" surprises hidden in the drawings. A twist from the usual rhyming counting book, this one chooses to count backwards from ten down to one, with the final page encouraging the reader to count all the witches shown.
Perhaps because this is an earlier writing of Mr. Prelutsky's, it appears to be a little more challenging with the rhythm and rhyme. An example would be where the syllable breaks try to match up, and Mr. Prelutsky includes a word "sorceresses" that is almost too many syllables for a young child to pronounce or even understand.
The vocabulary of this poem will also be challenging. To understand it, a teacher would need to first introduce many of the words and discuss "Halloween" theme meaning. Unfortunately, in today's society, one might question reading aloud, "Nine queer dears with pointed ears..." I know of no Halloween connection to the word 'dears', and I would hesitate to use the word 'queers' in a public classroom or library setting. The work requires a teacher to practice reading aloud several times before performing an oral reading to a group. the rhythm and rhymes are a bit tricky on the tongue.
Asbury's illustrations are adequate with the required number of witches on each page, but it is difficult to determine which are the "witches six in shaggy rags" and which are the "five old hags", as there is very little to distinguish between each character when presented on one page together.
Despite its shortcomings, Wild Witches Ball is a low-key, non-scary Halloween book for the younger set.
Booklist: "PreS-Gr. 1. The poet laureate of the prepubescent set is ate it again! Prelutsky sets his sights on the divas of the dark in this counting rhyme about the annual fete of witches. With "ten tall crones" battling in barrels, six witches "in shaggy rags playing toss and tag," ...the text will both amuse young readers and help them hone new found counting skills...Highly recommended as a not-too-scary Halloween read-aloud."
Have students create own counting-down booklet with matching illustrations.
Make appropriate Halloween art.
Choose words from poem for vocabulary enrichment.
Share other student-friendly Halloween books and poems.