The magic of Mildred

Now that we are starting to get to know one another, there’s something I need to confess.

I’ve never read Harry Potter. Not a single book. Not a single line.

I know they are the bestselling series of children’s books of all time. I know adults love them as much as kids.

And I know that I will inevitably end up reading this modern classic to Baby Bookworm once he reaches the right age.

But as a child of the early Eighties, there’s only ever been one child sorcerer for me – Mildred Hubble.

The Worst Witch books were one of my favourites growing up. Mildred was clumsy, gawky and just didn’t fit in at her boarding school. But she was kind and determined too.

With meek friend Maud in tow, she wrecked havoc with her dodgy spells yet always managed to save the day.

It was a gentler take on life at a magic boarding school. Little girls today might dream of being mates with Hermione but I wanted to be in Mildred’s gang – my long hair in the same plaits.

I was lucky enough to interview author Jill Murphy a few years ago for Junior and it’s fair to say I was a little star struck.

Jill wrote the first Worst Witch book when she was just 18 and received countless rejection letters, with publishers telling her it would frighten children. 

But a few years later, the person who typed her manuscript mentioned it to a new publishing house and she got her big break.

She told me that Mildred was very much based on her schoolgirl self and the tough time she had at grammar school in Wimbledon.

That’s probably why the character is so relatable – and why Jill’s most recent Worst Witch book, her seventh, came out nearly 40 years after the original. It’s story that is timeless.

Harry might be more famous but Mildred will forever be the original and best for me.

Read my interview with Jill Murphy 

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, £5.99 (paperback), Penguin

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