The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart

My library hasn't yet set up a "while you're waiting for Harry" display, but doubtless it will have one at some point. A book that I am going to slip in, if it somehow gets overlooked, is The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (publishd in 1971), and yes, this is the same Mary Stewart whose romance/adventure novels my mother read and passed on to me, who also wrote the very fine Merlin series that begins with The Crystal Cave). Probably The Little Broomstick will be overlooked; I bought it with Friends of the Library money, and I don't think either of our children's librarians have read it. I'm not sure any patrons have read it either.

This is wrong. When I was 7/8, and read this for the first time, I was stunned--it just knocked the young socks off me. I'm not sure how a grown-up reading it for the first time would feel, but I fell in love (as did several Amazon reviewers, apparently).

Here's the plot: Mary is sent to her Great Aunt's house deep in the English countryside; there are no children her own age, and the only two creatures at all friendly are the gardener and a black cat, Tib. Mary finds a little broomstick, Tib leads her to the rare Fly-by-night flower, and next thing you know, Mary finds herself flying through the sky... and the broomstick lands in the stableyard of a school for witches.

Although Mary is welcomed to the school as a prospective pupil (she did, after all, arrive by broom), it is not a friendly place. Horrible magical experiements are being performed on animals, including Tib's brother Gib. Gib's own owner, a boy named Peter, is deperatly searching for him, and the two children, and Tib, end up rescuing the animals from their cages, and escpaing the evil witches and warlocks in an utterly brilliant chase sequence that is one of my favorite bits of fantasy ever.

This plot outline is just a sketch. Anyone familiar with Mary Stewart (and this is also true of her grown-up romance books, which I have read and re-read myself) knows what a good describer she is. The pictures this book makes in the reader's mind will stay there. It helps that the book is illustrated by Shirley Hughes, who also is a lovely describer (although I always have to go back and look at pictures after I finish, because of reading so fast).

The Little Broomstick, first published in 1972, was re-released in paperback in 1989, and even though it seems to be out of print again, it looks like it's readily available.


  1. This incredible book has stayed with me since childhood. I recently got a copy via paperbackswap.com and my girls (7 and 4.5) loved it every bit as much as I did. Pure literary magic!

    Your blog is a real treat--I've got you bookmarked to explore at leisure with a cup of tea in hand :-)


  2. Hi Tracy,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It is so nice to get feedback!

  3. Charlotte, I'm so glad you had a post about this book. I read it when I was little but had since forgotten the title. I even named the kittens I had as a child Tib and Gib!

  4. Hi Rachel!

    I'm so glad you found this post! Thanks for taking the time to comment. We had a cat named Tib too...

  5. I was just telling my daughter about this wonderful book I read in the 70s and trying to get a copy for her I still remember this story so much and that is nearly forty years later.. It really is a fantastic story thanks

    1. I hope you manage to get hold of it (and that your daughter appreciates it....)

  6. I like others read this in the early 70s I have never forgotten it.. And trying to get a copy for my daughter.. One of the only stories that I remember and loved so much from my childhood


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