The Witches of Worm

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The Witches of Worm
The Witches of Worm cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Illustrator Alton Raible
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publisher Atheneum Books
Publication date
1 June 1972
Media type Print
Pages 192 pp
ISBN 0-689-30066-2

The Witches of Worm is a 1972 young adult novel by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.[1] It received the Newbery Honor citation in 1973.[2]


Jessica, a lonely pre-teen girl, finds a blind, almost hairless kitten that she names Worm. A reclusive elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fortune, helps her to wean and raise him. Worm seems to have a terrible hold on Jessica, compelling her to do cruel and destructive things to persons in her life who have upset her. Jessica's victims include her former best friend Brandon and her childish and emotionally distant divorced mother. As Jessica's destructive actions escalate, her mother attempts to send her to counseling, which further enrages and upsets her.

Jessica comes to believe that Worm is possessed by a group of witches that includes Mrs. Fortune. When Jessica finds herself contemplating Mrs. Fortune's murder, she realizes she is in danger of going too far, and decides to exorcise Worm herself in order to break his hold over her. After a dramatic exorcism, culminating in a nighttime chase during a bad thunderstorm, Worm becomes a normal cat, and Jessica is reconciled with her mother and Brandon, causing her to think that she not only exorcised Worm but also herself.


In a star review Kirkus Reviews wrote "There's some danger that adults will be as spooked by Jessica as she is by Worm's evil eye, but the cat's bewitchment proves a perfect medium for a sensitive, sympathetic probing of a disturbed child's fears and anger -- and for a story that economically, seemingly effortlessly, captures the elusive eeriness of the supernatural."[3] Common Sense Media said "Kids who love a good mystery will eat this one up."[4]


The book has often been banned[5] from school libraries in the United States because of its focus on the subject of witchcraft, the description of visions or nightmares Jessica experiences, and its protagonist's disturbing inner monologues with Worm/herself.


  1. ^ Fantastic Fiction
  2. ^ ALA: Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present
  3. ^ "The Witches of Worm". Kirkus Media LLC. 1 September 1972. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Witches of Worm". Common Sense Media Inc. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  5. ^ From Banned In The U.S.A by Herbert N. Foerstel