Author: Audrey Wood
Artist: Don Wood
Genre: Horror / Family / Food / Magic
Year Published: 1987
Year Read: 2009
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Content Rating: Ages 6+ (Some Scary Scenes and Child Kidnapping)
“Heckedy Peg” is another early book of Audrey Wood and Don Wood and is the winner of the Irma Simonton Black Award. With Audrey Wood’s masterful storytelling and Don Wood’s exotic illustrations, “Heckedy Peg” is sure to be an instant classic.
Audrey Wood’s masterful storytelling is both exciting and intense as she narrates the story of a mother who risks her life to find her seven children before Heckedy Peg eats them up. The scene that really stood out the most in this book was the scene where the mother knew which food item was her child by remembering what they had requested before she went to the market. I always thought that while reading this book, whether or not the mother had an excellent memory of what her children wanted or that it was the power of love that broke the spell over the children, but I believe that the power of love is a good theme in this book because the reader can easily see that the mother was distraught when her children were kidnapped and she had the courage to go rescue her children even after they were transformed into food. Don Wood’s illustrations are beautiful and haunting at the same time especially of the scene of Heckedy Peg’s hut being gloomy and frightening as the colors are mainly gray and blue and the trees twist in a monstrous way.
Parents should know that Heckedy Peg, the evil witch, might scare small due to her wanting to eat the mother’s seven children. Also, some parents might be upset by the use of witchcraft in this story as Heckedy Peg uses dark magic to transform the children into various food items and they might want to talk to their children about the controversial topic about witchcraft. Also, Heckedy Peg looks extremely frightening as she dresses in a tattered old dress and has a twisted and insane looking expression on her face. The scene that will probably frighten children the most would be the scene where Heckedy Peg transforms the seven children into different food items and you can see the malicious grin on Heckedy Peg’s face as the children seem like ghostly apparitions of themselves when they transform into food. Parents may want to comfort their children that a mother’s love for their children usually conquers any frightful situation and also discuss about the dangers of letting in strangers that they do not know that well.
“Heckedy Peg” is one of Audrey Wood’s and Don Wood’s most dramatic books and is also the most beautiful book from their collection, other than “The Napping House.” Children who love books filled with adventure and tension will definitely enjoy this book and the mother’s clever resolution in finding out which child is hers. I would strongly recommend this book to children ages six and older since it does deal with the subject matter of witchcraft and small children might be frighten by Heckedy Peg’s desire to eat the seven children.