Bed-Knob and Broomstick is an excellent investigation of the human urge to explore and take risks. Carey, Charles, and Paul are curious, active children seeking to know more about the world. Having discovered one amazing fact—that Miss Price is a witch—they immediately apply that knowledge to the task of discovering more about the world. The magic bedknob is their opportunity to explore in person rather than merely through geography or history books. Their adventures begin with challenges that they are able to manage, such as the explanation to a London policeman as to why their bed is in the middle of the street outside the locked door of their own home in the middle of the night and their subsequent escape from the police station. Their explorations take them into difficulties from which they are able to extricate themselves by their own efforts; consequently, they seek more challenging adventures until they reach the limits of their abilities and Miss Price rescues them. Such adventures have their cost: Once the children exceed their own capacities and are rescued, events transpire that restrict their opportunities for further similar adventures. Small adventures lead to larger and more reckless ones until adult judgment intervenes to protect the children from harming themselves. Once their options are restricted, the children have time to reflect on their choices and how they managed them, to think about the significance of what they learned from...
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Although Mary Norton originally began to write books for young adult readers out of financial motivations, her work demonstrates that her imagination was adequate to the task. She went on to write a series of award-winning classic adventure novels, The Borrowers (1952) and its sequels. Her flair for plotting adventure stories, however, is already apparent in her first novel, The Magic Bed-Knob (1943). This story and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) show her ability to mix realistic and admirable characters with fantastic plot elements in which readers would like to believe. The Wilson children in particular are interesting representations of the ways in which real children between the ages of six and twelve might behave, speak, and think in a variety of challenging situations. Carey is particularly skillful in speaking and represents the interests of all of them in their dealings with Miss Price. Charles is unobtrusive and observant, showing his courage at decisive moments. Paul is still under the spell of a carefree and secure childhood. The minor flaws of Miss Price make her a fully rounded character: her insufficient wickedness, her forgetfulness, and her passion to win the rose competition. Only Emelius Jones suffers somewhat as a rather pale and flat character, and his historical era is delineated with only the broadest strokes.
In 1971, Bed-Knob and Broomstick was made by Disney Studios into a musical film employing both live action and animation, but the characters, settings, and plot developments were broadly reinterpreted in the transition from the page to the screen.