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.
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.