Greetings to all my little Wanderers, new and old, and welcome to your fortnightly GUST review, where we look at stuff aimed at a younger audience that an older audience should really check out for themselves ’cause frankly, it’s pretty good. Okay, I’ve now summarised the basic concept for any newcomers to the scene, so let’s get down to business, to defeat the Hu – Okay, I have just been informed that no, I am not allowed to burst into musical number during a GUST review. [Not this issue, anyway, we've had a noise complaint -Ed.] Sorry guys, gals, and Wanderers of all or no genders.
Right, anyway, so today’s GUST. Well, today we’re going to be setting up something a wee bit different, a series of GUSTs following the one franchise. Oi, don’t you reach for the back button, pay some attention, you might learn something. (No, you won’t.) This isn’t always going to be a GUST thing, but we’re starting it off here because of nostalgia winning out. So the first franchise we’re going to look at?
Well, imagine you’re a child attending a school of magic, having lessons about potions and flying, in this old castle far away from anywhere. But you weren’t exactly raised by people who knew about magic so you keep making mistakes and the Potions teacher really seems to have a grudge against you and … wait, what do you mean Harry Potter? We’re not talking about him today, we’re talking about The Worst Witch.
Yes, believe it or not, there is a series with the basic premise of Harry Potter that outdates it by at least 20 odd years. Originally written by author Jill Murphy, The Worst Witch follows the trials and tribulations of one young witch called Mildred Hubble, who is without a doubt the worst witch at her entire academy. Now, why did I call this a franchise? Because as well as the original books – 6 in the series, two of which have been more recently published (2005 onwards) – this series has also spun on into a tv movie from the 1980s starring Diana Rigg, as well as a well-produced tv show which lasted three series, and created two spin-offs from that in turn. Today, however, we’ll start by looking at the books.
Now, believe me when I say it’s serious nostalgia that lead your friendly neighbourhood Z into picking this franchise as the first to try this little experiment with. This is one of the first book series that I ever really got into so yes, it is fair to say that this is one of those that is really aimed at younger readers. But, like I said, we’re looking at it as a franchise so you’ll need to bear with me because, frankly, the books are freaking adorable, alright?
Okay, so as mentioned, the books follow hapless young witch, Mildred Hubble, as she tries to make it through her schooling at Cackle’s Academy for Witches with as little problem as possible. Unfortunately, Mildred is not the smartest student out there, and despite all the best intentions, frequently makes mistakes which has Potions teacher, Miss Hardbroom, furious at her. Add in a toffee-nosed blonde girl named Ethel Hallow as the school bully who is a teacher’s pet and delights on picking on poor Mildred and well, you get to see why the girl is labelled the worst witch in the Academy.
So, what makes, or rather made, me like these books? Well, apart from the fact that even as a little Z I was always into fantasy, a lot of the appeal rests on the pull of the main character, Mildred Hubble. Mildred – Millie to her friends – is, for want of a better phrase, downright adorable. She’s sweet, good natured, and tries her hardest no matter what is thrown at her. She manages to keep a cheery smile on when the chips are down and, well, like I said, she’s adorable.
Okay, so as far as reviews go, this has been more of an overview than a review, I’ll freely admit that. The fact is, there’s not really much to say about the books except that they’re cute little reads, and I recommend giving them to kids of nursery or beginning primary school age. The language used is clear and simplistic, but there’s never a feel of the author talking down to her audience. There’s an innocence to the books, I realised while re-reading for this overview type review, and as an older reader its somewhat relaxing to be able to get involved in this innocent world of magic. So, yes, I would recommend these books for adults, particularly if you saw the movie or show as a child. It’s always good to know your source material.
Next issue: I take a look at the 1980s made-for-TV movie. Let’s see what we think of the magical happenings in that.
Z McAspurren (Always wanted to go to Cackle’s as a child)