The Little Broomstick. Mary Stewart

Happy publication day today to The Little Broomstick!

5 out of 5 stars for this children’s book: I recommend it to all children and adults as a wonderful, magical and suspenseful story. Plus it has gorgeous illustrations by Shirley Hughes.

The story

Mary Smith is ten years old and stuck in rural Shropshire with her deaf Great-Aunt Charlotte for the holidays. She feels slightly unwanted – her efforts to help in kitchen and garden are unsuccessful – and she is so bored that she even wishes she could go back to school. The writer conveys Mary’s feelings very well. Then everything changes: lonely Mary meets a cat called Tib, who leads her to a magical flower, which leads to them flying on a little, temperamental broomstick to a school of witchcraft. Endor College is no Howarts – I suppose the clue is in the name – and Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee are menacing characters who enjoy sinister experiments. When Mary attempts to stop the experiments and save the victims, there is a frightening broomstick chase – Mary Stewart writes suspense terrifically well and this together with the beautiful writing makes for a memorable story of standing up for what is right.

“Then it happened.

At the touch of the purple juice the little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony. Instinctively Mary clung to it, but it had twisted between her legs, and she fell.

But she never reached the ground.

For as she tipped forward, clinging along the handle of the little besom, with the head of twigs between her knees, the broomstick reared, shook itself violently, and then soared up towards the treetops with a swish like the rustle of a little wind.

And as it tore past the upper boughs, with Mary clinging for dear life to the handle, there was a scream and a crackle of twigs, and, with paws stretched like a flying squirrel, Tib flung himself out of the lime tree and on to the back of the besom. The broomstick jerked slightly under the impact, and then tore on, up, straight as a spear, towards the sagging clouds.” (chapter 3, The Little Broomstick ©Hodder and Stoughton)

The film

The Little Broomstick has been made into an animated children’s film, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’, the first anime by Japanese Studio Ponoc (heir to acclaimed Studio Ghibli): released last summer in Japan and in January in the US, this film comes to the UK in May, with preview screenings on 10 April.


I love Mary Stewart’s writing and my other blog Mary Queen of Plots is all about her. I have written many posts about The Little Broomstick and ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ if you’d like to take a look!

A sweep of broomsticks

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