I was very into stories about schools for little witches as a child, and there were a lot of them then. ("Spell Me A Witch" by Barbara Willard, "The Little Broomstick" by Mary Stewart, "The Witch Family" by Eleanor Estes, and a boy wizard appears in "Which Witch?" by Eva Ibbotson.)
But I was especially fond of "The Worst Witch", partly because the pen-and-ink illustrations on almost every page are full of such personality - the tabby kitten splayed out on the end of the broomstick with its eyes closed, hanging on for dear life, still cracks me up - and partly because, unlike in the other writers' stories, the heroine Mildred is not clever or talented or a "chosen one" or brilliant at magic. She's actually very bad at magic, and leaves well-meaning havoc in her wake everywhere she goes. Yet generally, in every adventure including this one (first in the series), she ends up performing some heroic deed that helps other people.
I have just read it out at bedtime to my six-year-old daughter, who is moving into 7+ years chapter books for her own reading. She was fascinated with the idea of boarding school, which she has never heard of before, and she loved the idea of children being able to turn each other into pigs and frogs..... wishful thinking on her part, I'm assuming. So I shall be getting the rest of the series.
Gemma Arterton is a natural at reading for children, she has so much genuine warmth and sense of fun in her voice that she's a joy to listen to, and her characterisations are faultless. In this wonderful boxset, she breathes sparkling life into the last three Worst Witch stories. The cover artwork is sweet, too, with the cds in matching pale green and twinkling stars. These newer stories are every bit as imaginative, fun and enthralling as the first books when the series began 40 years ago, and this beautifully read set of stories will bewitch young and old alike.
I remember watching this everyday after school, I loved it. I did not realise it was a book series. I am so glad it is though. I asked for this via netgalley but they denied my request so I bought it straight away. I read it in one sitting, well it is only 100pages long.
It transported me back to my child hood. I loved all of it. I was pleased to see all the characters I knew and loved were there. Especially Miss Bat, I love her, she is such a funny character. The pictures were good, I do not know whether they have been redone since the T.V. program, or if the people on the T.V. show did a great job of getting actors that look very like the characters. It really added to story.
The book is aimed at children, but I still loved it as an adult. I would definitely buy these for my future children.
I stumbled accross this title on an 80s page. I had forgotten all about these books until then. I just about remember when I read these when I was younger, and though an adult now, I really wanted to read it again for a trip down memory lane! It's a charming book, very well written and entertaining, even for someone of my age! It's a fast-paced story without any dull moments. I recommend this for those who enjoyed the Harry Potter books, children and adults alike! It is a quick read, but sometimes that's all it needs to be. I will definitely be buying the rest of the series in due course.
The first book in the series is a lovely new take on magic, or at least it must have been when it was first published ( in the 1970s). Although this is a great example of a harmless children's book, it is still quite fun for me to read. Do I recommend the book? Yes, but be careful because it is not for adults, almost too rushed even for young teens. If you expect Harry Potter but only with girls, you would enjoy the story, but the lack of detail can be off-putting.
Jill Murphy really hit a home run when she created the Large Family. Larger than life, twice as lovable, this family of elephants has more human characteristics than most, and the clever blend of simple and sophisticated humour means the adults enjoy reading them as much as the kids!
This isn't the best in the series, but it's still very good. If you don't have any of these books, I would recommend starting with Five Minutes' Peace and a Quiet Night In, as these two are hilarious. If you have both of those, then this one is as good as the others to follow up.
Jill Murphy, please write some more of these books! Our whole family (parents and kids) love them!
This review is specifically for the Colour Gift Edition.
I won't go into the (fantastic) story, because presumably most people buying this edition are already familiar with The Worst Witch and want to treasure the anniversary. Instead I'll go into what makes this so wonderfully special (and it is!).
First of all, it's been published to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Worst Witch, so it's a lovely hardback book that's nice and solid to hold. It's larger sized than the paperbacks (I'd say something like a quarter to a third bigger? Apologies for the loose approximation there), and printed in full-colour on great quality white thick paper, rather than the course thin yellowed paper that paperbacks are (understandably) printed on.
When I pre-ordered the book (a long time ago now), the paragraph describing it stated that only six illustrations were in full-colour. I can see that description has been changed now to state the entire book is in full-colour, which is good because I can confirm this is true. Every illustration from the original has been updated and wonderfully rendered in coloured pencils - along with brand new illustrations - and really this feels like the DEFINITIVE version of the Worst Witch. Whilst I've always loved the original black and white illustrations, the atmosphere that the coloured illustrations add can't be glossed over - suddenly Mildred's world feels a whole lot more real.
As I stated earlier, the paper is a gorgeous thick white glossy print stock, which means you don't get that issue of the other sides of pages showing through (admittedly that's a pet peeve of mine when reading, it's very distracting), and also means that the illustrations themselves really get to pop. It comes with a lovely red page-keeping ribbon - red like Mildred's school sash!
I'm not sure how well the book will stand up to repeated handling mind you. Having worked with many paper stocks before, and also owning a good collection of lovely printed artbooks and colour illustrated novels, I'm very very aware with how carefully glossy paper stock needs to be looked after. Even keeping your hands squeaky clean, glossy books will tend to pick up your natural skin oils anyway and end up with fingerprints all over them. They won't remain in any perfect state. This isn't an issue to me personally - I'm a collector in a sense, but a collector of things I enjoy, and I'll keep reading through my books over and over for probably however long my life lasts no matter how many fingerprints they get on them. ;) However, depending on your reasons for picking up this book, it may be an issue to you. You'll want to be pretty careful with it if you're trying to keep it in perfect condition, and if you have younger children reading it, you may need to encourage them to be just a little bit more careful with it than usual - just to be sure it lasts.
This book was already great, but the colour illustrations really elevate it. I only regret that it's unlikely the other books will receive this treatment, because now I've experienced the original this way I very much want the other six books in colour (especially the most recent two, which were amazing). I think the only nitpick that I could possibly come up with is that I wish the front cover had been given the full-page illustration treatment to match the atmosphere of the interior? But I recognise that there's a branding conflict there, and there's an established style for Worst Witch covers.
All I can really say is; if you're a fan of The Worst Witch, THIS is the book to get!
So, to sum up:
Positives: - I'd say confidently that this really is the definitive edition of the original text. The illustrations are gorgeous in full-colour, and though there was nothing at all wrong with the black and white ones, these ones really do take the book to 'the next level' as it were - they flesh out the atmosphere greatly, and lend a depth that black and white can only hint at. - The printing quality is fantastic, and in general it has a great feel as a finished product. The ribbon bookmark, the gold foil printing on the dust-jacket, the larger size and of course the beautifully printed pages themselves really make it feel like something to treasure.
Negatives: - This isn't really a negative, but more of a minor concern: because of the paper stock, if you want the book to stay in good condition, you'll need to be more careful with it than usual. This might be an issue to some people/children, because it lends itself much less to casual reading than the paperback - I recommend having a copy of the paperback handy too for that reason.