Winnie the Witch – Korky Paul/Valerie Thomas

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

There’s a lot to recommend this book, given how low it scores. Despite failing the Bechdel (there is only one female character, and no dialogue at all), it is a book about a woman. Admittedly, it’s a fairly stereotypical story about a classic female archetype (the witch), but nevertheless.

There’s also only the one human, so no sign of diversity going on. Wilbur (the cat)’s changing colour scheme doesn’t really count. ;P

All that aside, it is a very enjoyable book to read. There is so much going on in the illustrations, that each page rewards really looking closely and spending some time. There are frogs in pockets and strange magical creatures hanging out on bookshelves. Well worth taking a little extra time and examining them closely.

The story is fairly funny, though there are no real surprises. It was fun to read, and C seemed to enjoy it as well. It definitely falls into the ‘silly farce’ school of humour, but of course kids love that stuff, so I’d say it works. We were both amused, and it is fun to read as an adult.

Winnie herself appears to be a relatively harmless witch (in this book at least – I don’t know about the other ones) if a touch anarchic in her solutions. When she rainbow-colours Wilbur so she doesn’t trip over him any more, she is definitely acting more on impulse than with thought, but after she ponders the situation for a while, and thinks about how she hates that Wilbur is miserable because she loves him, she comes up with a much more effective solution.

She’s impulsive, but good-hearted, which is kind of a neat thing to see in an adult character in a kids’ book – even a witch.

Good stuff. Entertaining, if not revolutionary. 🙂

Meg and Mog – Helen Nicoll & Jan PieĹ„kowski

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points. This book is such fun
Discretionary ideological points: 2 point

Meg and Mog is the first in a series about a rather jovial witch and her (mis)adventures with her cat, Mog, and her friend the Owl. The story is very simple, with bold, bright illustrations. I love the way bits of dialogue are presented as speech bubbles, and various sound effects show up scattered across the pages like a comic book, making the book straddle the line between picture book and comic. I’m a big fan of picture books that play with the text and incorporate it into the illustrations, and this is an excellent example of that.

I’m giving it the Bechdel point, because Meg meets up with her four friends (who are also fellow witches with names – Bess, Jess, Tess and Cress) and they do spells together. Which is almost like dialogue, right? The truth is, I’m giving it the point because I think the book achieves the spirit of the thing – and real female friendship unrelated to boys is rare in kids books, and even more so in books not explicitly “for girls”. Okay, in the end Meg accidentally turns her four friends into mice and has to (for unexplained reasons) wait till Halloween to fix it, but nevertheless!

Covens of witches portrayed as totally okay and normal? That’s some subversive feminist shit right there. ;P (Honestly, I could probably write a whole academic paper on this topic, and the nature of witches and ‘wise women’ in children’s stories, but I am going to leave it at this for now.)

Meg is who she is, unapologetically, and that combined with the really innovative approach to text on the page and the upbeat approach of the book in general make it a total pleasure to read. I recommend it.

What do you think? Do you like Meg and Mog books? Do you have other books about witches you love?