The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, paperback novel, 107 pages, first published by Allison and Busby in 1974, this edition was published by Puffin Books in 1978.
Mildred Hubble is in her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy, a school for young witches. Disaster and trouble seem to travel in her wake as she navigates broomstick riding, basic spellcraft and potions, along with her best friend, Maud. While the school is headed by a jovial Miss Cackle, the girls are under the ever watchful eye of the severe Miss Hardbroom, their form teacher. Unfortunately for Mildred, she has found herself on the bad side of Ethel, another student. Not only is Ethel a better witch than Mildred, she is also the teacher’s pet, and she has a mean streak.
Witches are often portrayed as old, ugly and mean, but The Worst Witch shows a different side to witches. In this fantasy story, children are learning to become witches, and while some of them are mean, most of them are fairly normal kids just trying to get along in their schooling. Children can relate to Mildred’s dilemmas, even if they are of a more magical nature than their own. It is a fairly short and easy novel with some black and white illustrations scattered throughout. It is good for younger readers who are moving on from chapter books, suiting lower to middle primary school children. I read this book as a child, and it was nice to be able to share it with my own children. I found that I still enjoyed the story as an adult, and my second grader has already read it through a number of times. She is looking forward to finding the other books in this series.