By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
Acclaimed children’s book author Denise Doyen is introducing young readers to her favorite neighborhood legend.
In her latest book, “The Pomegranate Witch,” Doyen, who lives in El Medio Bluffs, draws inspiration from her own childhood with a language-driven story about curious minds and eerie encounters.
“With this book I wanted to celebrate the misfits, the hermits […] the Boo Radleys of the world,” Doyen told the Palisadian-Post. “Almost everyone I’ve met has a childhood story—a neighborhood myth—about somebody like this.”
Much like in her book, Doyen’s upbringing in Baldwin Park played home to a lonely older woman with a bewitching pomegranate tree that enticed children from all around the neighborhood.
In an effort to capture the prized pomegranate, a caravan of yearning youngsters would devise plans to invade the woman’s yard and pick the forbidden fruit.
And, as one would imagine, the quiet neighbor wasn’t too happy about their pilfering.
“For readers, I really wanted to evoke a sense of fantasy while also reminding parents how important independent play is,” Doyen explained. “The kids in the story are so motivated to get their treasure and through trial and error they finally see their many attempts result in success—that’s an important lesson to teach children.”
Another lesson to be learned is in the book’s final reveal.
After a long quarrel between the children, a pugnacious peacock and the witch’s garden hose, the brigade of children finally claim one pomegranate from the tree and split its red seeds among themselves.
Soon after the war is won—on Halloween night—we subtly learn that the “scary” witch is no other than the neighborhood “Kind Lady” who greets trick-or-treaters and offers them each a reddened and ripe pomegranate.
Doyen’s witch, as it turned out, wasn’t so “witchy” after all.
“We all need to take a bit of a closer look at people,” Doyen told the Post. “I think that carries on even after childhood.”
With ink and watercolor illustrations by Eliza Wheeler, the book’s pages are saturated with contrasting hues of vivid and muted colors that visually create a spellbinding experience blooming with heart.
Doyen, who received the E.B White Read Aloud Award for her first book, “Once Upon a Twice,” is known for using alliteration, silly wordplay and rhythmic language to excite young minds.
“Preserving the love of language is so important to me,” she said. “Nowadays publishers want short, easy reads with less words and more pictures—I write stories like these in a fight for the language battle.”
Two months shy of Oct. 31, “The Pomegranate Witch” is the perfect spooky readalong for Halloween night.
Doyen’s “The Pomegranate Witch” is available on amazon.com, Google Play and ebooks.com.