Jackson Vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup
as written by Elijah Asbury
Belinda Anderson, a native West Virginian known for The Well Ain’t Dry Yet, The Bingo Cheaters, and Buckle Up Buttercup has knocked it out of the park yet again with Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup. Anderson has written for such publications as The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Goldenseal, Wonderful West Virginia, and Writers’ Journal as well as having her books published through Mountain State Press. A prominent West Virginia writer, Anderson has been included on the first ever Literary Map of West Virginia published by Fairmont State University in 2004.
Belinda Anderson was also named a Master Artist through the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for her work as a mentor with emerging writers. When she is not writing, Anderson can usually be found in a classroom mentoring students and leading blossoming writers through the story writing process. Anderson has won many awards for her short stories and fiction writings and was the recipient of a professional development grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission for the Arts.
Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda, a 179-page fictional middle-grade novel written in 2013, is a magical tale of the goodness of friendship and how a healthy diet can save you from a terrible fate! Based off the architecture and design of Alderson, West Virginia, the city of Glasglen is one that any West Virginian can picture themselves in. Readers young and old can find themselves and their struggles placed in this small town while also seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The night might seem eternal, but the sun always shines again.
Glasglen is a sleepy little town with the radio silence of Green Bank where seemingly nothing changes one decade to the next. This is evidenced by Miss Margot (the mannequin), a permanent and unchanging fixture of Dewey’s Department Store. However, this sleepy town is rudely awoken when a beautiful red-headed woman slinks into town with nothing but a bumpity-bumpity-bump bag and a sickly sweet voice Wanda Lovecraft, the vixen clad in black auspiciously overcomes any trouble simply by casting a spell on adults and children alike.
Enter our hero, Jackson McKinney, a small and friendless boy with nothing to help him but his hearing aid, quick wits, and lucky penny! Throughout the story, Jackson is confronted with feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and terror so great he is unable to move. However with the help of his newfound friends, and some sage wisdom from his grandfather, Jackson might just be able to save the day (and a cat along the way)!
While reading this book I found myself not wanting to put it down, never knowing where exactly Jackson would wind up or if Witchy Wanda would be making kid soup! The author, Belinda Anderson, is able to convey a childlike sense of terror and wonder all the same. Reading this book leaves one with a sense of hope that while some obstacles seem insurmountable, anything can be accomplished with the help of friends and loved ones.
The book also touches on topics such as aging and ailing grandparents and makes hearing differences appear as a superpower. While giving kids a slight look into the world of PTSD and dementia, it can help adults speak with their children about hard topics that they might be facing in their lives. Making a hearing aid the primary reason Jackson is able to evade Witchy Wanda gives those with hearing differences a distinct and powerful ability over those without hearing loss. Representation matters, and for any child with hearing differences, Jackson can serve as a positive reminder that being different does not make you unworthy of friendship.
Joy mixed with fear and sadness, Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup is a story that readers of any age will enjoy. With a few subtle reminders to eat your veggies, parents are sure to get a kick out of this coming of age tale of triumph. I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a good spook and especially those looking for an easy way into the genre! This is a book that I will read again, hopefully with my seven year old niece, and I look forward to seeing other works from Belinda Anderson in the future!
Eli Asbury is a graduate student currently studying the Humanities at Marshall University where he lives with the love of his life, his dog Shadow. He is a sucker for good Appalachian stories and anything to do with the Mountain State. His heroes are Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster.