Book Review: “Hocus Pocus Spell Book: A Guide to Spells, Potions, and Hexes for the Aspiring Salem Witch Book”

When I was a child, I would’ve begged and pleaded with my parents to get me the Hocus Pocus Spell Book: A Guide to Spells, Potions, and Hexes for the Aspiring Salem Witch Book. New this fall from Disney Press, the story behind the release folds into the plot of the original film, with the Sanderson Sisters’ cottage having been turned into a museum about witches. An archival letter is included on the first page from the museum director, who explains that the book was copied for research purposes and warns any readers of attempting to use these spells.

(Disney Press)

(Disney Press)

More than just a themed book of witchcraft, the Hocus Pocus Spell Book has a story to tell. This book is magic, after all, and so it adapted itself to the previous owner, Winnifred Sanderson, even dating the day it fell into her custody – October 31st, 1660. It includes the Sanderson Sisters’ family tree and information about the witches they were descendants of. Winnifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson have written notes in the margins, which gives readers more insight into the terror they inflicted upon Salem before they were hanged.

I picked up this title early but waited to read it out of fear that it would contain Hocus Pocus 2 spoilers. If anything, the lore of the Sanderson Sisters featured here are negated by the film, but in my opinion, this feels more accurate. Rather than stumbling upon a witch who passed on her knowledge to the sisters, here they are the latest in a long line of witches. When you think about clues given in the first film, such as their mother making them a scorpion pie, this backstory makes more sense.

In terms of the spells, hexes, and potions featured, they make up less of the page count than the title suggests, but are still fun to look through. The words have been changed, however, and fans who remember the ones from the film word-for-word will likely be thrown off (for example, the spell to transform someone into a cat starts with “Curve the bones and arch the spine” instead of “Twist the bones and bend the back”). There are occasional bursts of Latin, which readers can have fun translating. And for Disney Villains fans, the text and artwork link the witchcraft studied by the Sanderson Sisters to the wizardry of characters like the Evil Queen, Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, and the unnamed enchantress from Beauty and the Beast.

Author Eric Geron has a lot of fun with the material, creating a worthy backstory for the Sanderson Sisters and their lineage while making everything we know about their lives feel more meaningful. But one of the biggest stars of this release is the artwork, with illustrated depictions of the witches that look far more like their on-screen actresses than most of Disney’s recent cartoony merchandise. The book’s design, credited to Gegham Vardanyan, features a visually appealing array of fonts, themed borders, and artistic styles. Even the handwritten notes from the Sanderson Sisters have each been done in a different style and color of ink to make it clear who is talking.

Hocus Pocus Spell Book: A Guide to Spells, Potions, and Hexes for the Aspiring Salem Witch Book is a lot of fun for Hocus Pocus fans of all ages, with a reading level recommended for ages 8 and up. While the lore of the Sanderson Sisters featured here was quickly negated by the prologue of Hocus Pocus 2, I personally feel that the brash personalities of the Sanderson Sisters make more sense coming from a long line of wretched witches rather than being the daughters of an apothecary. If you feel the same, you might enjoy this backstory as part of this season’s Halloween fun.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).