Title: The Little Leftover Witch
Author: Florence Laughlin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (Reissue Edition)
Publication Date: 1960, Reissued in August 2013
Audience: 8 and up
Summary: As Lucinda Doon goes to bed on Halloween night she hears a sound almost like crying outside her window. She opens the window and discovers on the sycamore tree Felina, a young witch who has broken her broom and is doomed to spend the year with humans until next Halloween when she may catch a ride on another witch’s broom. Alas, Felina doesn’t like humans. She spends the night in the corner of Lucinda’s closet (witches don’t sleep in beds) and Mr. and Mrs. Doon accept a witch with some surprise the next morning into their home. Lucinda welcomes a playmate, albeit an unpleasant one, and Felina accepts Itchabody, the cat, as the only acceptable member of the household. So for the next year Felina practices her small magic (apples mysteriously disappear, Mr. Doon’s ties are all in knots, Lucinda’s favorite doll is lost) in the Doon household and learns about birthdays, Christmas, school, rules, and saying, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you.” The change in Felina by the next Halloween is, says the presiding judge at her adoption by the Doon family, “Pure magic.”
Literary elements at work in the story: There’s a literary genre called magical realism where ordinary, mundane events and magic merge seamlessly. This story may be too slight to bear that literary designation but it does blend the unlikely presence of a small witch into the daily life of an ordinary family without explanations or question.. The text, half-a century-old, has been renewed and reprinted, and though some aspects are dated, it continues to delight as a read-aloud for children as young as four and for families of mixed ages or for middle elementary readers as a chapter book. One problematic aspect is the threat of spanking when Felina refuses to sleep in a bed. It never occurs and this is a very peaceful household but the threat is there. (I’ve read this to a single child and a room full of children many times. I’ve never failed to hear, “Don’t stop. Read some more.”)
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Accept the blurring of magic and reality, and perspectives aren’t too important. The Doons are white; Mr. Doon is the bread winner; the neighborhood is middle class; the town is small.
Theological Conversation Partners: Churches that baptize infants act on the faith that God will be nurturing the child in Christ, not once but daily, through the family. Felina’s life in the Doon household as she’s transformed from a witch into a little girl is a very good example of this spiritual formation or Christian nurture, though those terms aren’t used. Felina is not lovable but the Doons act like she is. They care for her, insist on rules that will help her grow, support her when the world around her is critical and enjoy her. A most important turning point comes when Grandfather Doon gives her his birthday, something witches don’t have and so can’t have birthday parties. Paul refers to becoming a Christian as adoption (Romans 8:15, Gal. 4:4, Eph. 1:5) and encourages the Ephesians to grow up in every way in Christ. A household of disciplined love is the soil in which Christians grow. Giving names is important in biblical identity. Abram becomes Abraham; Jacob becomes Israel; Peter becomes Cephas. Felina claims a new name as well based on the relationships of love in her home.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why doesn’t Felina like people? Has she ever known any? What’s the name for judgements that we make without experience or knowledge?
- Felina is impressed with how she looks after her hair is combed and she has a bath. Is how we look important to us? Why or why not?
- Why do the Doons let Felina wear her hat even though it causes problems?
- When is Felina most likely to practice small magic?
- What would it feel like not to have a birthday? Why was Grandfather Doon’s gift important to Felina?
- How did Grandfather Doon help Felina say that she was sorry?
- Mrs. Doon put a full basket of fruit out, saying that it was for everyone in the house to eat. What prompted her do this? How did this affect Felina?
- How did the Doons help Felina learn to read and know her success was important to them?
- Why does Felina choose to be called “Lucinda, Mary, George?” If you could choose your name, what would it be?
- Think of the things that make your home a good place to grow into disciples of Christ.
The Little Leftover Witch by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.