The Worst Witch
by Jill Murphy
Recommended Ages: 10+
Poor Mildred is constantly being sent to Miss Cackle's office, and she's afraid that if this keeps up, she'll be sent away from the school. Mildred's misery comes to a head on Halloween night when, thanks to a prank by Ethel, everybody blames her for spoiling a broomstick formation flight in front of all the local wizards. Mildred decides to run away from school, only to stumble upon a sneaky threat to Miss Cackle's Academy. In less time than it takes me to write this, the school's most hopeless witch becomes the hero of the hour.
Not so much a novel as a very slim chapter book, this story bubbles like a cauldron full of laughing potion. It's warmhearted, funny, full of insight into a child's anxieties about school, with friendly illustrations and just a pinch of Halloweenie spookiness mixed with its magic. Written at a level that I think would go over a treat with kids too little to start on Harry Potter, it bears comparison on a number of points with J.K. Rowling's later series of books (like, for example, being set in a castle). I like Mildred, and I'll surely look in on some of her other adventures in the future.
Written way back in 1974, this is the first installment in the eight-book "Worst Witch" series, with sequels running from 1980's The Worst Witch Strikes Again to 2018's First Prize for the Worst Witch. It's been adapted as a TV movie starring Fairuza Balk (1986), A Canadian TV series (1998-2001) with at least two spinoffs, and an ongoing CBBC series that started in 2017. There has even been a live stage version. British author Jill Murphy has also penned about 11 "Large Family" children's books and the standalone books Geoffrey Strangeways, Worlds Apart and Dear Hound.