The Little Broomstick: Exploring the DNA of Spell Sweeper

I wanted to write a bit about the inspirational sources for my new middle-grade book, Spell Sweeper. Most people understandably connect Spell Sweeper with Harry Potter, but there are so many other “broom” or “magical learning” books that I was thinking of when I was generating ideas for Caradine Moone and her dysfunctional crew of magical janitors (Cara’s words, not mine). 

The book that served as a primary influence was The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. This is a classic book, originally published in 1971 (the edition in the photo is 2018 by Hodders Childrens Books). 

The Little Broomstick has a voice in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, and what really imprinted on me was the idea of a lonely broom sitting there, waiting to spring into action. And spring it does! When young Mary finds a broomstick, she accidentally ends up investing it with magic and it instantly whisks her away across the English countryside to arrive at Endor College, school of witchcraft. But this is not a lovely school—Mary discovers a menagerie of animals being subjected to evil experiments, including her own cat. With her broomstick as her trusty companion, Mary sets out to free the animals. 

This book is also the basis of the wonderful animated film Mary and the Witch’s Flower from Studio Ponoc.

Side note, I just love the use of the word “besom” in this book, which means “a broom made of twigs tied around a stick.”

My own “broom” book is out now. Spell Sweeper is available in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

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