Flashback Fridays: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic . . .

Back, back in the days of grade school, before I even knew I was a fantasy reader, I took full advantage of our in classroom library.  Particularly of interest were a group of very short books with covers and titles that immediately promised that they’d be about magic and magic-users.  I read through several voraciously and when the book order forms came around from Scholastic, I immediately chose a book from the same author.  These are books of contemporary magic and kids having adventures in magic.  They were mostly comfortable, delightful little adventures that didn’t involve anything too scary or dangerous.  Perfect for an emerging reader to get their feet wet in the fantasy genre.    Perusing the pages of Goodreads, it becomes very clear that this author was a childhood staple for many readers, and I couldn’t  resist making her the focus of this flashback.

Do you remember:

What the Witch Left by Ruth Chew (Scholastic, 1973)


No Such Thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew (Scholastic, 1971)

I’ve only put up two covers above, but Ruth Chew wrote more than a dozen stories featuring kids on magical adventures.  Often, those stories featured a witch in some way, or things that belonged to a witch.  Long before Harry Potter came along to redefine wizardry,   Ruth Chew had mastered writing contemporary magical stories for kids.  In almost every case, the magic, while wonderous, is not an alien or scary thing.  In No Such Thing As a Witch,  our neighborhood witch makes magical fudge that allows the kids to talk to animals and turn into animals.  In What the Witch Left, seemingly ordinary objects actually possess extraordinary magic.    Two children get to experiment and figure out what each item does.

These stories are firmly for the younger readers, and I fully admit that anyone who’s already well-absorbed in the dangers and treachery of Harry Potter or the heroic adventure of Percy Jackson will probably find these too simplistic.  The stories are more mundane, if such can be said for magical tales–they deal with quieter, and mostly safer magical adventures.  I loved these books as a kid, reading them time and time again.  They were my window into a world of magic that could be imagined as real–and just in my own backyard.  There was no need to go Once Upon a Time and In a Kingdom far Away.  My favorite story is The Hidden Cave (Also called The Magic Cave (c1978) though I remember it as the previous title).  Two children discover a strange old man who turns out to be Merlin.  Merlin’s been asleep for hundreds of years, and so is unfamiliar with things like cereal and electricity. (I still remember the scene where he compares the corn flakes to little leaves).

For a long while these stories have kind of been lost by the wayside . . . remembered fondly by adult readers, but not ready to hand for a younger generation.  Given the news I discovered recently, that’s about to change.  Random House  is republishing several of Ruth Chew’s works with updated illustrations.Here’s two of the covers:

Expected publication by Random House , August 2013

Expected publication from Random House in August 2013

I think the updated covers are quite good–how about you?  I haven’t seen the interior illustrations yet, but  I’m excited by the prospect of Ruth Chew’s works reaching a new generation of readers.  I can only hope the stories stand up to the passage of years since they were first published.   I do think “Matter of Fact Magic” is a perfect description of the author’s brand of magical storytelling.   I’ll be buying at least a few of these for my own kids . . . ^_^


Are you a fan? Comments welcome!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on July 5, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. writingmom2013

    I don’t think that I have read anything by Ruth Chew – but these books might be a great introduction to fantasy for my little guy! (Not yet, but when he’s a bit older.) Thanks for sharing.

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