Sorry, Monday is on a Tuesday this week. We drove south to escape the smoke so things have been a little upside down.
It all starts because Mary Jane’s mother has a bottle of perfume called Mischief. Witch Hilda, who rides a vaccuum cleaner and does her best magic on Wednesdays, is irresistably drawn to the smell from Mary Jane’s house. (With regard to flying vaccuum cleaners, The Tree that Sat Down, 1945, got there first, but with only the briefest of mentions. Other vaccuum riders include the Grand Madame in The Blue Nosed Witch and Mrs. Breadloaf in The Amazing Vacation, both published in 1956.)
Hilda and the humans are soon embroiled in each others’ affairs. Hilda accidentally leaves her cat behind. When she returns for the cat, she loses possession of her vaccuum cleaner. (Mary Jane’s mother mistakes her for a service person, gives her the family’s malfunctioning vaccuum in exchange, and shuts the door on her.) Hilda steals Mary Jane’s roller skates out of spite. She also cuts the cat down to doll size with a pair of magic scissors, and the cat takes refuge in Mary Jane’s dollhouse. When Hilda runs into Mary Jane and demands her vaccuum back, Mary Jane grabs the scissors and cuts Hilda down to doll size. Things continue like this until Hilda and Mary Jane call a truce and join forces to create a magic measuring tape to restore everyone to their proper size. Hilda even repairs the family vaccuum cleaner and gets her old one back.
This was the first of Ruth Chew’s many witch books (she cranked out about a book a year for the next three decades) and is by far her best. Though written to be readable by a young audience, this book is clever enough to be enjoyed by older kids as well. Chew quickly settled into writing what would now be called beginning chapter books, with their choppy unnatural sentences and recycled plots. But Wednesday Witch deserves to be remembered.