Recommended for readers 10+
Does everyone know who the Sanderson sisters are? No? Okay, quick recap: they’re three awful witch sisters from the 1993 Disney movie, Hocus Pocus. They had a particular taste for children and a spell that would let them live forever, until a teen named Max, his younger sister, Dani, and his crush, Allison, with the help of a talking cat named Binx. The movie starred Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the Sanderson sisters, and went on to be a huge cult classic that still gets regular play throughout the year in my home. Late last year, news hit the media that the Sandersons were coming back for a sequel, and there was much rejoicing among Hocus Pocus fans. There was talk about a TV movie, either on Freeform or Disney Channel, with the working title Hocus Pocus 2: Rise of the Elderwitch, but that seems to have been squashed. However, just in time for the movie’s 25th anniversary, Disney Books has a book hitting shelves: Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel.
Anyway. The anniversary volume has a novelization of the 1993 movie, which is a fun, light, slightly macabre Halloween story about a boy, 2 girls, and a cat against three witches. The All-New Sequel continues the main characters’ story, 25 years later. Teen crushes Max and Allison have grown up and gotten married; they have a gay daughter, Poppy, who’s crushing on school It Girl Isabella. Max teaches at his old high school, and Allison is a lawyer. Neither are fans of Halloween, and their Salem, Massachusetts neighborhood thinks they’re crazy, because they’re super paranoid about witches – particularly the Sanderson history – and Halloween. (Why did they stay in Salem after the events of Hocus Pocus, especially if no one believes them?) Poppy, her best friend, Travis, and Isabella find themselves back at the Sanderson house, with Winifred Sanderson’s spell book and a ouija board, and end up bringing the sisters back from Hell: by swapping Poppy’s parents and Aunt Dani. They have until daybreak to locate the blood moonstone and reverse the spell, or the Sandersons will reign and Poppy’s family is doomed.
Where the original is light and fun, the sequel is darker; it’s more YA to the original’s middle grade. I like the added diversity and LGBTQ vibe that runs through the sequel, and it certainly has its moments; the sisters are fun to read, especially Winifred (Bette Midler’s character), who is as delightfully horrible as ever. It’s missing a bit of the light-heartedness that made the original such fun to watch, but its darker feel makes the humorous moments more welcome. The ending will leave readers wondering if we’re getting a third installment. It’s an additional add for fans of the original movie, and readers who enjoy a good spooky quest.