Mary Stewart is widely known for her celebrated series based on the legend of King Arthur and his enchanter Merlin. But, she also wrote a few delightful books for the young ones. The little broomstick was her first novel for kids. Published in 1971, this book was based on the popular notions of the western world regarding magic that include flying witches on broomsticks. The book also features a magic teaching school. However, the little institution headed by an evil witch and her assistant portrayed here is very different from J K Rowling’s fantastic Hogwarts, which has had a fabulous run over seven wonderful books of the “Harry Potter” series.
|Book Title||:||The Little Broomstick|
|Publisher||:||Knight (September 1, 1989)|
|# of Pages||:||128 (Paperback)|
|Purchase Links||:||Purchase @ Amazon.Com|
With an absolutely typical and commonplace name and an appearance to match it, Mary Smith finds her life very dull compared to her bright and energetic siblings. Her parents are going to America for a month and Mary ends up spending this period with a kind and elderly Great-aunt Charlotte in the old red brick house in the countryside. While the household comprises of kind and good-natured ladies, it is an utterly boring place for a child. She has no companions and is at loss to find something to do to while away her days. The only companion, she could have had was the vicar’s son Peter, but the family are gone away for some time.
On one dull autumn morning, she is out in the grounds trying to help the gardener. This however does not go very well and Mary is left to roam on her own. She finds a lively black cat in the garden that leads her to an interesting clump of flowers in the woods. Later Mary learns from the gardener Zebedee that the cat is called Tib after a witch’s cat and the uncommon flowers are widely known as the witch’s flowers. Mary however is too happy and excited to have found a playmate and is not worried about anything. Zebedee also tells Mary that Tib has a brother called Gib, who lives in the vicar’s house in the village.
The elderly ladies of the house have to go and visit a friend and so Mary is left on her own on the next day. She decides to help Zebedee by sweeping fallen leaves from the garden beds. But,, without meaning to, she uses the juice from the witch’s flowers and her little broomstick is flying away even before she knows it. Tib also manages to cling on to the broomstick and together they arrive to Endor College, a magical school. She is welcomed and escorted by Madam Mumblechook through the school, who proudly shows all her classes to Mary.
They arrive to an advanced class where Doctor D is teaching invisibility. Mary tries it successfully and so does Tib. Madam Mumblechook and Doctor D both are highly impressed with Mary’s magical abilities and gladly invite her to become a pupil. Mary accepts with no inclination of returning here. She also gets a glimps of all the mal-transformed animals in transformation lab and on an impulse steals one of Madam’s precious book of spells.
Feeling very glad at escaping the oppressive environment of the school, she arrives back home only to discover that Tib is not with her. Madam MUmblechook has deceived her and stolen her pet. Mary apprehends that Madam Mumblechook and Doctor D must have kept Tib to carry out their transformation experiments. Tib needs to be rescued and so Mary needs to go back to Endor College one more time before it is too late…she needs to go tonight.
Although she is frightened, she comes to the college and reaches the laboratory undetected. While she is trying to find Tib she discovers that Madam and Doctor have already transformed him. Mary uses the master spell to undo all magic around her and suddenly the place is full of all creatures in their original form including beasts and birds and Tib and to Mary’s surprise Gib. She realizes that Tib must have brought her to Endor college to rescue his brother.
The only way forward for them is to run. The master spell is still working and Mary escapes with everyone else and commands the broomstick to go straight home. And home she comes with Tib and Gib, but it is Doctor D’s home. She grabbed the wrong broomstick. There is no way out of here. She finds Peter, the vicar’s son, in the garden of this home. He was looking for Gib and lost his way and ended up here.
The two children decide to stick together. But, can two young and inexperienced children and two cats escape the combined magical might of Madam Mublechook and Doctor D. The chase begins, but where will it end?
This book was published a year after the celebrated first book of Merlin series “The Crystal Cave” and it was probably dealing with the story of that arch-magician of English culture that put the idea of this book in the author’s mind. The major difference however is that while the Merlin series is full of sparkling wisdom and light spirit of magic, the undertone of this book is that magic is dark and disastrous in wrong hands. Mary certainly has some magical powers but she would remember this whole experience only as an adventure and will not pursue magic further. This is like the stories of “Beedle the Bard” for the children: Keep your head down, don’t try things that you don’t know about or you shall end up in trouble, etc.
That said, Mary Stewart is a delightful author and everything written by her makes a beautiful read. This story is no exception…Treat your children with a bit of magic at bed time…
(PS: The book is free downloadable on internet).
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