Bed-Knob and Broomstick Critical Context - Essay

Mary Norton

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

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.