Room on the Broom

  Though I love picture books, they're not designed for our bouncing babies or our terrible terribly terrific toddlers.  After trying to find two of our favorite Halloween books (one being Over in the Hollow) in the seasonal section at Barnes & Noble the other day, we left disappointed and empty-handed.  Mind you, I've been scouring the shelves of Half Price Books all summer trying to find the same titles.  I know I should've given up months ago and ordered them online, but there's something so satisfying to me about shopping for tangible books at an actual bookstore- the same something that drives me across town to rent movies at Blockbuster still.  Alas, I was forced to shop online.  In perusing the web I learned The New York Times' bestselling Room on the Broom is now a board book!


The Story

   Written by our beloved Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the celebrated Axel Scheffler, Room on the Broom calls to mind the lessons taught in the folktale-turned Little Golden Book and now app, The Little Red Hen.  "She asked the duck: 'Will you help me plant this grain of wheat?'  'Not I!' said the duck."  Though an indisputable classic, the characters in The Little Red Hen are self-serving and regretful in the end.  Conversely in Room on the Broom, a warm-hearted witch is soaring high and greeted with the generosity and kindness of the many creatures she encounters on her journey who, in return, simply request a ride on her broom.  Each page explores a new challenge as the wind gusts pull her hat, bow, and wand to the ground.  With each loss, they gain a new friend.

The witch had a cat
and a hat that was black,
And long ginger hair
in a braid down her back.
How the cat purred
and how the witch grinned,
As they sat on their broomstick
and flew through the wind.
"Down!" cried the witch,
and the flew to the ground.
They searched for the hat,
but no hat could be found.

Then out of the bushes
on thundering paws
There bounded a dog
with a hat in his jaws.

He dropped it politely,
then eagerly said
(As the witch pulled the hat
firmly down on her head),
"I am a dog, as keen as can be. 
Is there room on the broom for a dog like me?"

"Yes!" cried the witch,
and the dog clambered on.
The witch tapped her broomstick and
whoosh! they were gone.

   The steady repetition from Julia is addictive, as always.  Her talents satisfy both a baby's need for a rhythm to rock them to sleep, and a tired adult's need for an easy read-aloud to do just that- make...everyone...sleeeeep.  Although it is simple to recite, Room on the Broom is not without some engaging action and tantalizing twists and turns!  Every time Julia writes, "The witch tapped the broomstick," Baby Girl and I tap the ground with our hands (thud, thud), and "Whoosh!" in unison as they take flight!  In addition to stirring the cauldron with all of her might, Baby Girl gasps at the dragon and beast's climatic standoff and cheers at the big surprise ending!  For more about one of our most favorite authors, visit another wonderful work and Blueberry Book of hers, Tyrannosaurus Drip.

The Storytellers

   Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler together have become a highly-praised pair for their creations such as The Snail and the Whale and Zog, but are best known for their teamwork in The Gruffalo.  I appreciate what Liberty and Owain wrote about the duo's works in this blog post , "I love these books so much because my kids love them and because, unlike the Nick Jr. Dora the Explorer book series, the stories are no insult to intelligence and language. Donaldson's rhymes scan sometimes imperfectly but frequently with astounding charm. Much better than the standard offering. Man, I was in the library with Liberty a couple weeks ago and we read a story she randomly picked and you know what it was about? A tiger who bought things for no reason. The prose was wooden and uncreative and the message was mindless consumerism."

   Axel Scheffler, born in Hamburg, Germany, always loved animals and had childhood dreams of becoming a naturalist.  Even though he loved to draw, he never sought out to become an illustrator.  Taken from an interview by Isabel Abiston for The Telegraph, Alex explains, "After school I decided to live abroad for a while and enrolled in a visual communications course at Bath Academy of Art. It was while I was studying there that I first thought about becoming an illustrator." Following his time adorning the grounds of Corsham Court with drawings of sheep and peacocks, "Scheffler then moved to London where he began illustrating for a variety of English and German Advertising companies, magazines and newspapers before moving into book illustrations in the 90's which is when the Gruffalo was created," as shared here.  He has since earned "worldwide acclaim for his humorous illustrations, and his books have been translated into over 29 languages" (source).  In his interview with Isabel he revealed the following tidbits about himself:

  • Tools of the trade Old-fashioned brushes, a dip pen, Ecoline liquid water colours and Karismacolor and Faber Castell coloured pencils. I use the dip pen for the black outlines, then cover the drawing with ink and use the coloured pencils on top.
  • Occupational hazard I get very tense shoulders and have had back problems. I have a special chair that I kneel on when I'm drawing.
  • On the radio While I work I listen to German radio on longwave, much to the annoyance of Clementine, who is French. Clementine and I speak English together, although she understands a bit of German and I speak some French. It's going to be interesting when we have our baby, due next month.
  • On the bedroom wall I painted a series of the adventures of a bear and a frog for Clementine - I have given one to her for her birthday and Christmas for the past six years. Each scene is a different month of the year.

The adorable end product of his tools and talent in Room on the Broom.

The Review

   After being translated into 21 languages and winning five book awards, Room on the Broom received 5 out of 5 blueberries as our twelfth Blueberry Book!  The board book is a wonderfully engaging story for ages birth to preK, and the picture book is an adventure surely to be loved by any little one three years and older!   The book has even been transformed into a currently touring play and film!!  My girls like collecting letters with the Witch Words game here (choose games, on bottom right) and they love the new app, available here!!

The Classroom

    For all the highly admirable educators out there, the possibilities are endless!  Your students could make up their own spells to mend her broom as a writing lesson or design their own broom (guidelines: must seat four, must be able to fly, and includes safety and luxury items)!  If you have the freedom to celebrate Halloween and/or witches in your classroom, click here (choose activities and scroll down near the bottom, looking for "Party Invitations") for easy and fun ideas for a not-so-scary Room On the Broom party!!  Visit the official website for printables including a word search, maze, word scrambles, finger puppets, and more!

   The following are a few I selected from a comprehensive list of handouts and activities from the Overture Center Resource Guide:
  • The animals in the story all help the witch by finding her things. Can you remember when someone has helped you? What kind things did the witch do for the frog, the dog, and the bird in return? Can you think of anything else the animals did to help the witch? Why is it good to help each other?
  • The witch loses several things that are important to her.  Have you ever lost something special- a favorite toy, perhaps?  How did you feel?  What did you do? Did you ask anyone for help? Did you find it again? Think about strategies for looking for lost possessions.  Do you have a lost and found at school? How can we take care of our things?

  • Have students think of other animals that might encounter the witch on her journey.  As a shared writing activity, make up a rhyming couplet for each animal.  These can connect together to make a string of verse.

  Click here for an easy witch magnet craft and here for printable vocabulary worksheets (pictures and words), a sequencing activity, and a witch and cauldron map designed for math (measuring, addition, and distance traveled) lessons!

   Thank you so very much for stopping by!  If you'd like to help us expand our followers, please add yourself to our followers list or email list in the right column of our page!  We hope you have a Happy Halloween!!

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