HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Bedknob and Broomstick: A Combined Edition of The Magic Bed-Knob and Bonfires and Broomsticks
Author: Mary Norton
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., 1957
Language level: 2 (some common euphemisms)
Reading Level: Ages: for 9-11 but I would recommend it for 11-14
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Norton, Mary. Bedknob and Broomstick: A Combined Edition of The Magic Bed-Knob and Bonfires and Broomsticks (published in 1957 by Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., New York City, NY). Before Mary Norton published her series "The Borrowers," she had written a book entitled The Magic Bed-Knob in 1943. She followed this up with a sequel Bonfires and Broomsticks in 1957. These two books were then combined into one volume entitled Bedknob and Broomstick, which became the basis for a Walt Disney film starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson entitled Bedknobs and Broomsticks (sometimes the book was sold under this title too). It tells the exploits of the three Wilson children; Miss Price, the apprentice witch; and a flying bed. When Carey, Charles, and Paul Wilson, who are spending the summer with their Aunt Beatrice in the country, discover that Aunt Beatrice’s neighbor Miss Price, a prim and rather unusual spinster, has been riding a broomstick, they decide that she must be a witch. With a gift that the children acquire from Miss Price, who has been studying witchcraft, they have a series of exciting and perilous adventures traveling on a flying bed that takes them to a London police station, a tropical island, and back in time to the seventeenth century.
The "magic" in this book is not "fairy tale magic" as in Edward Eager’s books, but "witchcraft magic." While admitting that I am somewhat troubled by the witchcraft element, I basically enjoyed the book. The question is, why would I enjoy this book but not Harry Potter, since both deal with "witchcraft"? The plot of Bedknob and Broomstick is more of a light-hearted romp that definitely has a fantasy feel to it, whereas Harry Potter is much darker and more serious about its witchcraft. As a result, I believe that Harry Potter actually tends to promote an interest in witchcraft, while I do not think that Bedknob and Broomstick does. In fact, Miss Price decided to regard "witchcraft not as a hobby but as a weakness." Also, Emelius Jones, the seventeenth-century "necromancer" whom they save from being burned at the stake, said that his mentor, under whom he had studied, told him before he died concerning "magic" that "there isn’t such a thing." Let me hasten to add that while I do not recommend Harry Potter, I cannot and will not say that anyone who decides to read it is "evil." It is a choice that each family must make. We chose not to read it for the reasons that I mentioned.
In Bedknobs and Broomstick, the euphemism "gosh" is used several times, the phrase "hell to leather" is found once, and there is a reference to drinking beer. I would not recommend the book for young children as the scene where Jones is about to be burned at the stake is a little intense. Otherwise, I found nothing else that I would consider objectionable. The book was reissued, but apparently, at the present time, neither the individual novels nor the combined edition is in print. Oh, buy the way, one reviewer noted, "Did you see the movie BedKnobs and Broomsticks? If you have, this book…is very different from the movie." That is certainly true. There are some similarities, there are also some significant differences.