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Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Worst Witch Series

The Worst Witch books ( I have a series of 4, but I believe altogether there are 6 titles)
Author and Illustrator: Jill Murphy (first published 1993, Puffin books)

So I've realised, from my posts so far, that I'm mainly concentrating on what my 1-5 year olds are enjoying. At weekends I'll try to offer recommendations for literature based on what my seven year old boy has been reading on his own, or what we're reading together. 

This week we're trying to get through the last book in The Worst Witch series, as the UK's main children's channel CBBC has an adaption of the series starting this week, and he's really keen to watch it:

I read these Jill Murphy books as a child, as did some of my friends, and we have many collective fond memories. Initially then,  it felt risky to want to share these books with 7 year old Alf, as if he didn't like them, I knew I would have felt miffed ( and possibly quite old!) Well for us, they haven't lost their charm, in fact I'm reading The Worst Witch books myself now with renewed applause, as I am amazed how easily they've crossed the 'gender gap'. I absolutely hate to say this, as a huge fan of modern children's literature, but I do find a very stark gendered division in my children's literary interests, but in this instance sport crazy boisterous  Alf is happy to read about witch school uniforms (and there's quite a lot of description about this in the books, from tights to hats, lots of black and grey checks!) 

What Alf seems to like, or maybe empathise with at this age, is the female protagonist, Mildred, feeling that she can't ever get anything perfectly 'right'. I think 7 is quite a volatile age for this, with a sudden awareness that there are inequalities in life an in the classroom. Another one of the themes in the series is friendship, particularly having loyalties, and again, I think this is a real concern or 'awakening' for some children at this age. 

So far, in our current read, The Worst Witch All At Sea, there's a good sense of loyalty as Mildred plots to save her Tabby cat from his new fate as a mouse catcher in the witch Academy kitchen. Meanwhile, we hold her other secret, a trip to the seaside looming- but she can't swim!   
Once again, this series really works in that the concerns of the witches echo the concerns, metaphorically at least, of real children. On a practical level, there are good illustrations every 2-3 pages, big sized print, in the editions I own ( Puffin, 2011 copies for The Book People Ltd), and short chapters, very much suitable for budding independent readers. 
Each story has a slightly different adventure, but there is usually a 'calamity scene' involving broomsticks flights, getting told off by scary teachers (the stern Miss Hardbroom), and Mildred in some way saving the day in haphazard and unwitting fashion. 

Rating: For the true nostalgia of enjoying these books myself as a child, I can't help by highly recommend! 

If you like this you may also like: The BFG written by Roald Dahl

Also, The Book People currently have a 7 book The Worst Witch series in stock for £6.99:
The Worst Witch Series to buy-BookPeople

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