The Worst Witch is a series for children that has appeared in many forms since the first book was published. After the four books came a film, and more recently a television series was made.
The Worst Witch is about Mildred Hubble, a young witch-in-training at Miss Cackle's Academy. Mildred is rather clumsy and mischievous; a lot of her spells go wrong and her broomstick flying is disastrous. During their first year at the Academy each pupil receives a black cat to fly on their broomstick with them. Unfortunately, in Mildred's year there were not enough black cats to go around, so Mildred receives a tabby cat instead. Mildred is bullied by Ethel Hallow, the teacher's pet, and Miss Hardbroom, the Potions teacher and teacher in charge of Mildred's year. Fortunately, Mildred has some very good friends. Mildred is forever getting into scrapes and being threatened with expulsion.
Jill Murphy had four books about Mildred Hubble published, the first in 1975. Each book follows a term at Miss Cackle's Academy. There are two terms in every year, so the books cover Mildred's first two years at the academy. The books are illustrated by the author, with many beautiful pen-and-ink drawings. The books are suitable for young readers as they do not contain scary parts, but can also be enjoyed by older readers. They are very funny.
Mildred Hubble is the main character in the books. She has two good friends: Maud, who is very loyal, and Enid Nightshade, who appears part-way through the series and is more mischievous than Mildred. Ethel Hallow does very well at Potions and is the favourite pupil of Miss Hardbroom; as a result she tends to make snide remarks to Mildred a lot of the time. Miss Hardbroom is a very strict Potions teacher who will not tolerate any form of bad behaviour or bad work. Miss Cackle is the headmistress of the school. She is usually calm and friendly and dislikes getting angry. Mildred's cat, Tabby, is a very faithful pet, but terrified of flying. He therefore causes a lot of grief for Mildred.
Every main character in the books has a very distinctive appearance, shown by Jill Murphy's excellent descriptions and brilliant drawings. The appearance suits the character. Mildred has very long hair in two messy plaits. Maud has her hair in two bunches and wears round glasses. Enid is very tall and large with one plait. Ethel has a pointy nose and hair pulled back in a ponytail. Miss Hardbroom is tall and skinny, usually wears dresses and has her hair in a bun, and Miss Cackle is quite plump with grey hair and glasses.
Miss Cackle's Academy is located in an old castle on the top of a mountain. It is extremely chilly there, and as there is no heating in the castles, the girls get extremely cold for most of the year. It doesn't help that all the windows in the castle are old and not covered with glass, and that it sometimes snows during the 'summer term' when the girls have to wear short sleeves.
In 1986, a film of The Worst Witch was made. It was based only on the first book. Some artistic liberties were taken, however, so the storyline and appearance of the characters were modified slightly.
A television series of The Worst Witch started in 1998. The series was made over a period of four years, with a new season of 13 episodes being produced each year. A special Christmas episode was also made.
The majority of the storylines in the episodes came straight from the Worst Witch books, although some brand-new episodes were made up purely for the television series. New characters were invented as well, such as Jadu and Ruby (friends of Mildred) and Merlin 'Loppylugs' Langstaff (an apprentice wizard who the girls spend some time with). Some characters, such as Drusilla (a good friend of Ethel's) were mentioned briefly in the books and developed into more major characters for the television series. The books were re-released around the time of the television series, with new covers featuring scenes from the television series.
The acting in the television series is generally very good. Most of the girls playing the young witches were new to acting; this is noticeable in the first series. By the third series, however, they were all used to their characters and doing an extremely good job. The adult actors are also very good and well-suited to their characters. The actors in the television series have been made up to look almost exactly like the characters portrayed in the drawings by Jill Murphy. The costumes worn are also faithful to the book.
The fourth season of The Worst Witch television series was called Weirdsister College. When Weirdsister College opens, Mildred Hubble has graduated from Miss Cackle's Academy and has a place at the prestigious Weirdsister College, Cambridge University. Weirdsister College was never mentioned by Jill Murphy, the plots were not written by her and most of the characters are new, meaning Weirdsister College was considered by many to be not up to the same standard that The Worst Witch was.
A Copy of Harry Potter?
The Worst Witch has been suffering on online review sites lately, with Harry Potter fans claiming that the series is a cheap copy of Harry Potter. This is not true. Although there are many similarities between the books, the first of the Worst Witch books was published more than twenty years before the first Harry Potter book, and more than ten years before JK Rowling had the idea for Harry Potter. Many of the themes present in both books also appear in many, many other boarding school books for children. Although the similarities are strong, the differences are even stronger, and each series is an excellent one in its own right.
The Worst Witch television series official site.