Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The Witch Next Door"

There's a question I've frequently returned to over the years here in Slogland (and which is particularly timely given divided reaction to this week's release of the torture reports):
"Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?"
One of the more elegant answers can be found in one of my favorite books - a thin little kid's title called "The Witch Next Door". A witch (a real one, with wand and everything) moves into a new house, the neighbors go berserk, and the witch, rather than responding to hatred with reciprocal hatred (Homo sapiens' signature move), well....she opts for a different route.

It's a beautiful parable, conveyed with great subtlety and economy and strewn with easter eggs (e.g. the posture of the witch - easy to miss - after she takes action against the neighbors) for the enjoyment of readers who give the book the serious study it deserves.

I was actually in my 20s when I first read "The Witch Next Door", and I've since bought copies for countless children and adults. It hasn't helped, though. The virus of reciprocal extremism is way too prevalent for one beautiful little book to offer sufficient inoculation.

Author Norman Bridwell (more famous for the "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series), alas, died this week.

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