The Worst Witch
If you are searching for Harry Potter Light, you need look no further than The Worst Witch Series.
“To tell you the truth, Mildred was afraid of the dark, but don’t tell anyone. I mean, whoever heard of a witch who was scared of the dark?”
The adventures of Mildred Hubble are set in Miss Cackle’s Academy for young witches. Mildred is not the most talented witch and her cat, Tabby, is terrified of flying but they might get by if it weren’t for the irritatingly perfect Teacher’s Pet, Ethel Hallow, who continually gets Mildred into trouble. To make matters worse, the cranky, sharp-featured potions mistress, Miss Hardbroom, seems to have it in for Mildred.
She would have abandoned the academy altogether if it weren’t for her two best friends, Maud and Enid. Any of this sounding familiar?
My six year old and I are currently reading the fifth in the series and loving every minute. For this special 40th anniversary hardback edition, Jill Murphy has reproduced the original drawings in beautiful full colour.
Titchy Witch And The Frog Fiasco
“Titchy Witch was always in trouble with her teacher. Miss Foulbreath was a real ogre.”
Yes, a real ogre. Titchy Witch decides to leave school and go it alone. She can read after all, how hard can it be to teach herself spells?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t all go according to Titchy’s plans. She soon has more frogs in her house than she knows how to handle.
This easy reader has clear, simple text, and no more than two sentences per page. The lovely bright illustrations feature amusing speech bubbles and make this ideal fodder for beginner readers of 5-7 years.
This book opens with a note about witches:
“REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS. That is why they are so hard to catch.”
A young boy narrates the story of how he and his Grandmamma came to share a hotel with a terrifying coven of all too real witches.
I am wary of recommending The Witches as a bedtime story for very young children. The boy’s parents are quite abruptly killed in a car crash and, beyond that, Dahl’s witches are actually a wee bit scary. My suggestion would be that children are at the right age to appreciate this story exactly when they are able to read it. Roald Dahl was something of a genius at pitching his stories to the correct readership.
As always, the collaboration between Dahl and Quentin Blake is a thing of joy.
Isadora Moon Goes to School
“Meet the magical fang-tastic Isadora Moon!”
Isadora Moon is half vampire, half fairy and totally unique. Her Mum is Countess Cordelia Moon, a bonafide fairy, while her Dad is Count Bartholomew Moon, a thirsty vampire.
Isadora has a difficult choice to make. Should she go to fairy school where pink-haired Monsieur Pamplemousse encourages the use of sparkly wands and teaches ballet? Or would she be better suited to vampire school where Countess Darkfang encourages twirly hand-writing and teaches bat-training?
With smart writing and sassy black, white and pink illustrations, Isadora Moon is a total charmer. I love the tone of this book as well as the positive message about learning how to be yourself. This series is a modern and genuinely entertaining start for children who are just beginning to read independently. Recommended for ages 5-8.
The Princess and the Wizard
A wicked wizard’s nose is out of joint because he wasn’t invited to Princess Eliza’s birthday. He whisks the princess away to his castle keep and forces her to do all the washing-up.
“The Princess may try seven times to escape
by changing her colour and changing her shape.”
Lydia Monks provides particularly colourful and glittery illustrations which make this a properly magical book. Princess Eliza is a resilient and resourceful heroine while Donaldson’s rhyming verse is, as always, completely enthralling.
Recommended for ages 3-6.
That's Not My Witch...
I’m crazy about the That’s Not My...series. Usborne call these “touchy-feely books” and I love to buy them as gifts for small babies who invariably gobble them up.
This one begins “That’s not my witch...her dress is too silky,” with a bit of silky fabric to illustrate the point, and continues through ten pages of sensory experience for little fingers to explore.
Recommended for touchy-feely readers of 6 months to, oh, at least 45 years.
Room on the Broom
The unstoppable and fantastically talented Julia Donaldson started out as a song-writer. In 1993, one of her songs, A Squash and a Squeeze, was made into a children’s book and so began her prolific career. Donaldson has more than 180 published works for children including a phonic reading scheme and, of course, the magnificent Gruffalo.
Room on the Broom, like The Gruffalo, is a collaboration with illustrator Axel Scheffler. It features the same delightful rhyming scheme and an equally satisfying twist at the end.
Any child between 2 and 5 years old will love this book.
Also available in board book format and with striking redesigned covers are:
The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, The Snail and the Whale, The Smartest Giant in Town, Monkey Puzzle, Charlie Cook's Favourite Book, and A Squash and a Squeeze.
The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner
From the fantastically funny Terry Pratchett (his official title), this is a collection of fourteen stories aimed at independent readers. These early Pratchett stories were written before the legendary Discworld series but keen fans will take pleasure in spotting nascent ideas and themes.
The title story tells the tale of a magician who is cursed by a witch so that everything he touches turns into something else, invariably something odd. More stories range from the Wild West (of Wales) to a war between two wizards.
Whimsical, witty and sometimes silly, this collection makes a nice introduction to the master of comic fantasy. Recommended for children aged 7 to 9, and for all fans suffering symptoms of withdrawal.
Stories of Wizards and Witches
Enid Blyton died in 1968 having written nearly 800 books about half of which are, incredibly, still in print. My own collection of Blyton titles seems paltry at around three dozen.
This was the woman I turned to in my youth for stories about boarding school, invisibility cloaks, mistaken spells, perilous potions, mean teachers and loyal friends.
Stories in this book range from a very brief two pages (It’s Going to Rain!) to 14 pages (Whiskers and the Wizard) and are illustrated with simple line drawings.
Blyton’s stories undoubtedly read now as a little old-fashioned but what harm is that? These are still well told tales and I believe it is a fine thing for children to become accustomed to reading language they find dated. Let them stretch a little.
This collection of 25 stories is a lovely introduction to Enid Blyton as bed time stories for children of 5 upwards or for slightly older children reading alone. It might also make a charming gift for a nostalgic grown-up.
The Early Reader: The Three Little Witches Storybook
Three Little Witch’s, Zara, Ziggy and Zoe, are planning a Halloween celebration in Magic Wood for their friends Wizard Wink, Baby Dragon and the Troll Children but the deadful Melissa has plans to spoil the party.
Red banner Early Readers are cleverly designed so that new readers can gain confidence by reading the simple dialogue bubbles and graduate to reading the rhyming text. They are well-produced books with attractive maps on the endpapers.
Who could resist a book with a frog named Fidget and an owl called Two Hoots? Recommended for young readers of 4-6 years.