Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Then out of the bushes

on thundering paws

There bounded a dog

with the hat in his jaws.

He dropped it politely,

then eagerly said

(As the witch pulled the hat

firmly down on her head).

“I am a dog, as keen as can be.

Is there room on the broom

for a dog like me?”

This is a story about a witch. Not a clever and glamorous Harry Potter-style witch or a green-faced Wicked Witch of the West kind of witch. This is a homely witch with a can-do attitude. She has long ginger hair in a plait, (although at least one reviewer has found fault with this, as “ginger” is apparently now politically incorrect when used of hair colour, as opposed to, say, a plant root) a bog-standard-no-frills riding broomstick, a cauldron and a long pointy hat.

The witch has one familiar, which happens to be a cat. But she doesn’t discriminate against other animals, and she soon meets a dog, a bird and a frog. Each of these animals helpfully locates something that the witch drops whilst flying, and the witch repays this kindness by finding room for them on her broom.

All very sweet and polite, you might think, and it is . . .  until calamity strikes and the broom snaps in half, leaving the witch’s companions tumbling to the ground, where they land in a bog. But the front half of the witch’s broomstick, which holds the witch, flies into a cloud, and this cloud hides a red – possibly Welsh – dragon. The dragon has plans for the witch: he wants to eat her with chips. I won’t give away the ending of the book, but the witch’s animal pals are very inventive; they work together as a team and they fight the hungry dragon.

The structure of the story is Gruffalo-esque, and the clever use of rhythm, rhyme and phrase repetition keeps the pace fast and ensures that neither reader or listener loses interest. The main message of the story is that kind behaviour is rewarded. It’s a “what goes around comes around” Karma type of deal. However, the thing my toddler seems enjoy most about the book is that a powerful witch is rescued by some very ordinary little animals.

The book is aimed at pre-schoolers and younger primary school children, although adults may find much to enjoy too. As a word of caution, whilst the witch is not particularly scary, the dragon is daunting to some children. Weirdly, my kid is not bothered by either of those things, and is instead utterly freaked out by the cloud that the witch flies into after breaking her broom.

As with all of the Donaldson/Scheffler collaborations the illustrations are glorious, and as for Broom 2.0, it has to be seen to be believed.

Macmillan Children’s Books. ISBN-13: 978-0230749351, board book, £5.99.

 

5 comments on “Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

  1. Jackie
    July 4, 2012

    You always do such a good job with kid’s books, I think it’s because a part of you still remembers how the world looked at that age.
    This sounds like a cute way to show how kindness makes the world better, even in an immediate way. And it’s nice how the witch is a regular person, though with a special set of skills. It’s good to see the dragon wanting to eat a balanced meal, that sets a good example. ;) The message & the humor would make this an enjoyable book for various ages. I might look for it in the children’s section of my library, just to see how it all ends up.

  2. annebrooke
    July 5, 2012

    Nothing wrong at all with ginger hair – we happy owners are always proud of our gene pool! :)

  3. sharonrob
    July 5, 2012

    I like the idea of a witch as an ordinary woman with fairly every day problems including badly-behaved animals and equipment that breaks down. Judging by the cover, this is a nicely-illustrated book with plenty of depth in the background and a really cute cat. But how does the witch steer her broom and hold onto her cauldron at the same time?

  4. Jackie
    July 5, 2012

    Maybe the cauldron handle is looped over the broom?

  5. Lisa
    July 6, 2012

    Thank you for these lovely comments. The witch manages to steer and hold her cauldron with the same hand, and her wand is in the other hand. I think most of us would fall off our brooms in those circumstances, so she is obviously a very talented witch.

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This entry was posted on July 4, 2012 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: children's, Poetry: children's, Uncategorized.

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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