Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star, by Jill Murphy

You know how when you’re little, you assume authors are these really grown up people who are pretty old? And so when you become a grown up yourself it’s always quite a surprise that all these people who you figured were long since retired are still very much alive and kicking and still writing? Embarrassing. Very embarrassing.

I grew up reading The Worst Witch stories and when I first became a bookseller it was a wondrous discovery that Jill Murphy was not only still writing them, but that she actually lives in the same county as me. So: she was my first taste of magic as a child, and my first taste of magic as a bookseller too.

The Worst Witch is, well, the worst witch at her school, Miss Cackle’s Academy. To be fair, Mildred Hubble is really not that bad at being a witch, it’s just that she has a penchant for getting herself into messes, sticky places and tricky situations. Of course, this is the perfect kind of heroine for any small, adventurous child – especially as Mildred’s heart is always in the right place, her intentions always pure.

There are now seven books in the Worst Witch series, of which The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star is the latest installment. Now in Form Four, Mildred is no longer the most inexperienced in the school, and it’s time for her take on some responsibility, but when she makes a wish on a shooting star, what will happen when it comes true? Mildred has to hide her secret not only from her teachers, but her friends and enemies too – it’s surely only a matter of time until disaster ensues and everyone finds out. What sort of trouble will she be in then?

This is such a lovely series for younger readers, with a clear print and lovely illustrations by the author that help bring the text to life even more. Although the lessons are not quite the same as ours – the food and accommodation neither – at the end of the day this is a school like any other, with all the usual characters and the ups and downs of a hard term that we can all relate to. Mildred just wants to make friends and stay out of trouble; head teacher Miss Cackle is quite soft hearted, and though I was always rather afraid of the stern deputy head, Miss Hardbroom (the name says it all really!), she’s got a soft spot for the girls too, really.

Fun, funny, and with plenty of action to keep the pages turning, no matter how many wrong turns Mildred might take, readers can’t go wrong when they pick The Worst Witch.

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