Before there was J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, there was prolific author Ruth Chew (1920-2010.) She was one of my favorite writers when I was a child and The Wishing Tree was a book I reread many times. Recently I came across another book she wrote called The Would-Be Witch and it is delightful.
Her style is much simpler than Rowling’s and her magical worlds are very innocent. Each book she wrote stands alone and offers a fun escape for its reader, showing unique glimpses of what this world would be like if witches and real magic existed. Her protagonists are always ordinary children who stumble upon an enchanted object or meet an interesting woman who is a little “different.” The charming pencil sketches in her books are also hers. There is nothing dark or graphic about her books.
In The Would-Be Witch, siblings Robin and Andy Gates find a clumsy white cat who belongs to a shop owner named Zelda. While watching Zelda’s shop one afternoon, the children start speculating about the eccentric lady and her odd clothing. Meanwhile, their mother has just purchased some “magic” polish, said to work wonders on any surface from wood to plastic, and the adventure begins.
The time period is general, and could take place anytime from the early 1900’s to present day. The children mind their parents and are responsible young people. It is all told in an uncomplicated narrative with interesting twists and turns and a satisfying ending.
If the fantasy world of magic is something your young child is interested in, and the Harry Potter series is too advanced, I highly recommend The Would-Be Witch, The Wishing Tree, or anything by Ruth Chew. Her official page is HERE, and books that were out of print for years are now becoming available again in libraries and in digital form.