"Bedknob and Broomstick: A Combined Edition of 'The Magic Bed-Knob' and 'Bonfires and Broomsticks'"

Bedknob and Broomstick (Puffin Books)



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

ISBN-10: 0140304452

ISBN-13: 978-0140304459

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.

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1 Response to "Bedknob and Broomstick: A Combined Edition of 'The Magic Bed-Knob' and 'Bonfires and Broomsticks'"

  1. Tim says:

    What is even more different are the differences between the 1957 combined edition and the original 1940’s original editions of “The Magic Bedknob” and “Bonfires and Broomsticks.” Disney, in fact, appears to have based his movie somewhat more on the original 1940’s novels which definitely take place in WWII in war-torn England. In her 1957 combined edition, Mary Norton decided to edit out all references to World War II, apparently in an effort to make the time-setting more “timeless.” (I found all three books – originals and ’57 combined – on Amazon.) While Miss Price seems older and more spinsterly in “The Magic Bedknob,” she somehow becomes younger – 35! – in “Bonfires,” as she re-kindles her romance with Emelius. Of course, Disney put his film version squarely in World War II and then added in the terrific fictional Nazi “nuisance raid” (sort of a mini-invasion) of a small German landing force which is scared off by Miss Price and a museum of walking medieval armor (a Ghost Army), which is actually compellling and thrilling cinema, to say the least. Personally I also feel that Mary Norton’s opening transition chapter in “Bonfires” is much better written in the combined edition. Apparently also Disney bought the rights to the Mary Norton 1940’s “Bedknobs” novels, as one of these original 1940’s dust jackets says so, although the Disney company would not make its “Bedknobs” film until 1971.

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