by Valerie Thomas
illustrated byKorky Paul
ISBN (PB) 0192723162
ISBN (HB) 0192790048
Oxford University Press

shopping basket Hardback


Winnie the Witch lived in a black house.
It had black carpets, black chairs,
a black bed with black sheets,
and black pictures on the walls.
It even had a black bath.

Naturally Wilbur the cat was also black. The only problem was, Winnie just couldn't see him - until one day she decided to use just a little magic...

Now available in miniature - and ideal for little fingers - is the award-winning WINNIE THE WITCH.

The story of Winnie and her black cat Wilbur is fast becoming a children's classic and with the current vogue for miniature books, it is certain to reach an even wider audience.

Illustrated by Korky Paul, whose drawings reveal Winnie as more of a daft witch than a dangerous one, it is a lovely story about how she turns Wilbur bright green because he blends in so well with her all-black house that she keeps falling over him.

It is aimed at two year olds and upwards but I would quibble at it appealing to children that young. For those just a couple of years older, it would be a surefire hit.

Winner of The Children's Book Award in Britain last year, this book is a visual delight, crammed full of delicious details and all kind of little jokes that you have to look carefully for. A witch lives in a black house and has a black cat whom she is always sitting on because she can't see him. So she changes him into all sorts of colours, until she realises the best thing to do is change the colour of her house. The illustrator, Korky Paul, studied art at the Natal Technikon and now lives in Britain.
THE DAILY NEWS 6 DEC 89, Jill Gowans

It's easy to see why this is an award winning children's book. And I believe the adults who buy it for their children will probably end up keeping it for themselves a s kind of junior coffee table book. The text is clear and the story simple: A witch living in a black house in which everything is black and keeps tripping over her black cat. Her magic powers turn the cat bright green until she trips over it on the green lawn and a multicoloured cat is an embarrassment. So Winnie changes the colour of her house and the book, already a feast of illustration for the eyes, explodes into a rainbow of colour.

The result however is a book which achieves an infectious magic of it's own.

'Ace!' was how the kids described it. 'I must have it!' has been the response of nearly every adult I've shown it to. It's one of those books you know you'll have to replace again and again as it gets worn out by eager readers chasing the delicious details and jokes across the pages. No wonder it won the Children's Book Award.

Winnie the Witch lives in a black house with all the right black trimmings for a witch of her stature, and her only problem is that Wilbur, her cat, is camouflaged too well in the house but Winnie's attempts to change this have disastrous consequences. JUNIOR EDUCATION, JS

WINNIE THE WITCH is a delightful story about a friendly witch who has difficulty in seeing her black cat, Wilbur, in her entirely black house - at least she does when he closes his eyes and goes to sleep. This causes some unfortunate accidents: sitting on him, tripping over him, etc. Consequently Winnie decides to use her magic to remedy the situation, but hits snags on the way to a successful conclusion.

The story was enjoyed by all the under-fives I read it to, in large and small groups and individually, and it's currently a favourite of my son, aged seven. The narrative is short enough on each page to hold the interest of young children, but the language used would appeal to slightly older ones as well.

The pictures are lovely with lots of detail which makes it especially good for individual or small group reading where the children can look for the ingredients for spells, the black toilet and Winnie's unmentionables on the washing line!

I'm sure that many playgroups will already have met Winnie in hardback, and now she is in paperback she's a must for all the others (or look for her in your library!)

Offering testimony to the power of illustration in this literary genre, WINNIE THE WITCH gives top billing to graphic artist Korky Paul, who created this marvellous tale with children's writer Valerie Thomas. This book has won the prestigious award of the Federation of Children's Books Groups in Britain.

In a riotous splash, WINNIE THE WITCH adopts color as its theme from the outset as our hapless heroine sets out to brighten up her life. Her home is black, as her carpets, chair, bed linen, wall pictures and other fixtures. Fine for a witch, one might assume, until Winnie tries to locate her black cat. To do so she employs a little magic with hilarious consequences.

Winnie lives in a black house, with black furniture, black carpet, even a black bath. The problem is that she can't see her black cat and regularly sits on him or trips over him. She tries making him various brilliant colours, until he leaves home in embarrassment. Then she has a lateral think and, at one magic stroke, the matter is resolved. There are wonderfully witchy pictures with dreadful somethings lurking under the bed, but it is all very amiable, especially the nice relationship between the witch and the cat. And what an agreeable way to learn about colours and their implications.

One of the pleasures and terrors of an editor's life is the morning mail. You never know what you're going to find in there. One morning out of nowhere I received a story called WINNIE THE WITCH from a teacher. It was meant to be a small book and fit into a little reading series we did. It was a very good story, and eventually I bought it.

This left me with half a book - just the words. Various artists had a crack at it but all foundered on Winnie's black house, which came out as a dismal black shed at the bottom of the garden. The various versions of Winnie and her cat all looked terrible. It didn't seem to be working.

Meanwhile the leaves fell off the trees and the author went to Australia. I started to lose heart, and WINNIE THE WITCH lay lonely and unloved as a small pile of paper on a desk.

Then one day I heard that somebody's brother wanted to see me. And in walked a tall, strong-looking man called Korky Paul. At first we walked round each other rather warily.

He had lots of ideas: collapsing walls, rhyming baboons, a fish who could wish. I didn't like any of them. But I could see that he could certainly draw - crazy houses, animals, machines, monsters - all done with a great sense of humour. But what to do with him? There was a silence.

Sometimes you get a good idea. Not very often, but sometimes you do. 'What about WINNIE THE WITCH?' He seemed a bit puzzled and unenthusiastic at this but said he'd have a go and off he went.

Back he comes, more enthusiastic but a little nervous as he wanted to do the book twice the size we'd intended and to take it out of the reading series. But when I saw the picture he'd painted, I could see why. Like all good artists he'd expanded on the original idea and added something imaginative of his own. There was this enormous house, with crazy staircases, ceilings and rooms crammed full of junk. And sitting in the middle of it all was Winnie the Witch and her cat.

But the trouble was he was leaving for Greece very soon and what did I think: Yes or no? It meant that I wouldn't be able to see the progress of the work. But sometimes you have to trust people. 'You have a deal'.

When the leaves were starting to fall off the trees again, he came back with the finished artwork, and it was terrific. We published, Korky won the Children's Book Group award, and now it's in paperback. That was the start of a relationship which is still continuing, and Korky is now illustrating many books for us.

So what do you learn from this? Think sideways, keep an open mind, trust people, take risks - but the trouble is that it's happened again. I have this nice little story that I bought a long time ago. Only I can't find an artist. Korky doesn't want it, neither does anyone else. The author is in despair. What shall I do? Answers on a postcard, please, to Ron Heapy, Children's Book Editor Oxford University Press BOOKS FOR STUDENTS AUTUMN 90

The decor of Winnie's house is black, just like her cat, and therein lies the problem for whenever Wilbur shuts his eyes he becomes almost invisible, with unfortunate results for both cat and witch. Winnie's first two attempts to solve the problem by changing Wilbur's colour have drawbacks, but she finally hits upon a satisfactory solution with a touch of lateral magic. This amusing, easy-to-read story is lifted above the ordinary by Korky Paul's spirited and detailed, slightly Searle-like, illustrations which will make it appeal to a fairly wide age range.