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Mildred Hubble

from The Worst Witch

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By Kirsten

A photo of Kirsten Irving in a large wizards hat

I could never relate to powerful heroes in fiction. As a kid, I was scatty, scruffy and forgetful, so reading about strong, saintly and powerful characters was a source of despair. I always hoped Wile E. Coyote would catch Road Runner, just because that little bird was so smug. So when I met Mildred Hubble, I rejoiced.

Every child should read The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, if only for its celebration of the true underdog. Mildred, the witch in question, is clumsy, unlucky and often in the doghouse at the suitably dreary Miss Cackle’s Academy. Forget Harry Potter, with his posh school, raft of pals and glorious destiny: poor Mildred, stuck in the dreary Miss Cackle’s Academy, will be lucky if she passes her exams!

No great shakes as a trainee witch, Mildred breaks and bodges nigh-on everything she touches. Mocked by the school bullies, who soar, stir and spellcast with ease, it would be easy for this magical muddler to give up hope altogether, but she doesn’t. In fact, she shows cauldronfuls of determination and optimism, even at her lowest points. To take an example, when the other young witches receive broomstick-savvy black kittens, she gets a tabby who’s scared of heights. Fighting her disappointment, she makes the best of their partnership, crafting him a broomstick pouch for his frightening flights. When life gives you a vertigo-addled tabby, make a sidecar.

Through Mildred, Jill Murphy showed me that failing first time doesn’t mean failing full stop. Mildred and Tabby might never be flying aces but with practice, they get a little bit better. And that’s the point: never giving up. Even after being humiliated before the entire school, incurring the wrath of her classmates and teachers, including her best friend, the worst witch finds the courage to foil a dastardly plot and save the school. Ultimately, trying once again and doing the right thing brings its own rewards for the plucky girl.

Every child needs reminding that people don’t have to be perfect. It’s OK to be accident-prone, and it’s fine to make mistakes. It’s how we learn, after all. And for all her witchcraft and potions, to a little girl better at reading than remembering things, Mildred’s failures made her a very real hero indeed.

The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.

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