Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dorrie and the Blue Witch written and illustrated by Patricia Coombs (1964)

Milk and cookies!  
Dorrie and the Blue Witch was another cherished book that I remember from childhood.  My maternal grandparents weren't big readers, but they did have a few books.  For example, they had a huge collection of Reader's Digest Condensed Books which I read pretty voraciously when we stayed at their house (one had My Several Worlds by Pearl S. Buck, which I loved and have written about previously in this blog).  They had some old Disney editions of - I think - Swiss Family Robinson and Toby Tyler.  My grandparents are both dead, so all of this now exists in my memory only.  Mmm what else... many Bibles.  A Biblical lands travel guide sort of book, with color photographs.  Plenty of Reader's Digest, Guideposts, and Sports Illustrated (if was out of books and was desperate, I would even read those).  The Monster at the End of this Book, although that must have come much later.  Some Holly Hobbie books (also much later).  Maybe some Sweet Pickles?  And most definitely, a paperback version of Dorrie and the Blue Witch.

Witches were the thing when I was 8-9-10.  We played witches all the time.  In the winter, I can remember after an ice storm (or two) playing The White Witch from Narnia (that was cold but fun).  I had this friend, two years younger than me, named David Bunker - we always called him Bunker - and he and I and whoever else was around would play Bewitched, which was syndicated afternoons where we lived.  I think Bunker always played Endora; I don't know who I played.  No one EVER played Darren.  Meh.  (Bunker is also a homosexual - no surprise there.  We also loved The Addams Family, which we played too.  Bunker, if I remember correctly, was always Morticia.  Again, I don't know who I was.  But for Addams Family, you could safely play ANY character and have fun.  Not like Bewitched, where only lame people want to be Larry or Louise Tate, or god forbid Darren (Mrs. Kravitz, though, that was fun).

So witches have been a part of my creative energy, stuck in my head and fantasy, since I was a little kid. I wonder if some of that has to do with that little paperback copy of Dorrie that my grandma and grandpa had.  In my head, witches don't actually look like those characters from Bewitched.  Witches look either like  the White Witch from Narnia (never, ever the sultry green witch, who was more of an enchantress in my mind, not a real witch) or Dorrie and her family.  Black pointed hats, funny shoes, striped stockings.  Goth before goth.  I guess the Wicked Witch of the West falls in this category too.  Like in Oz, witches were all things - benign, good, evil - not purely evil.  The witches from A Wrinkle in Time also exist in this realm, as does Miss Switch, the substitute teacher who was also a witch.  She had a couple of after school cartoon specials, and some books. I owned one Miss Switch book, and it wasn't the first in the series.  I think maybe I read another one too, checked out from a library.

Dorrie, though, I don't think I even knew that Dorrie was a series until I was an adult.  She wasn't in my public library or school library, and I could only read that Dorrie book when I went to visit my grandparents.

It's not a very good book - it's certainly not profound or life changing.  The illustrations are really what make the book wonderful.  They look like pen and ink to me.  My paperback copy has only blue and black ink; the library copy in front of me right now includes yellow as well.

I've probably re-read Dorrie every other year or so.   I think about ten years ago or so, probably when I discovered this was a long series, I tried to read as many as I could get my hands on. Let's face it --  Dorrie and the Blue Witch isn't all that good of a book, and the others weren't either.  Not even the pictures were all that attractive.  My copy was in all blue and black, the library copy added yellow - but I recall other Dorrie books being just in black - or maybe black and brown.  They don't necessarily need to be colored - full color ruins the world of Dorrie. But the very, very best Dorrie book is black and blue, and that's what I'm sticking to.

I love this picture - I want to live in this house
I wonder who originally owned my paperback copy?  I can't imagine that it was bought specifically for me or my brother - that kind of purchase of books for us didn't happen all that often, and certainly not by my grandparents (Colorforms and sticker books though - I remember those.  I still remember the taste of the stickers on my tongue).  Dorrie was originally published in 1964;  so it can't be for my mom or aunt or older uncle - maybe for my younger uncle, who would have been about the right age in the late sixties to have this book, although I would be surprised if he read that (or any) book.

In the world of Dorrie, at least in this book I read, there are no men.  Where are all the wizards?  Maybe they come in later books.

Dorrie and the Blue Witch (Dorrie the Little Witch, #2)Dorrie and the Blue Witch by Patricia Coombs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dorrie and the Blue Witch is one of those picture books where illustration is everything.  The story isn't profound or literary or life changing - although it's quite solid and good - I've read it aloud successfully to a group of third graders at Halloween time.  But the book is really about the classic illustrations.  My original copy, a paperback from the 1960s which originally probably belonged to my mother, was done up in black and blue ink; the library copy I recently read was in yellow, black and blue.  Dorrie is the perfectly illustrated, and whenever I think of the word "witch" I actually picture Dorrie - black pointed hat, strange shoes, striped (blue!) socks.  Her black cat Gink is a perfectly illustrated blacker than black cat; the blue witch, Dorrie's mother, Mildred the cook - perfect, perfect, perfect.  As someone who loved stories about witches and still loves a good story about a witch, Dorrie is the tops.  She's got that black magic.

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1 comment:

  1. I loved Dorrie!! I named my black cat Gink when I was little and I think Dorrie and the Blue Witch was my favorite. I didn't own any Dorrie books, I got them from the library. I'm sorry your library didn't have them. She was popular at mine!
    There were men, there's a book about a wizard. He was a little absent-minded and kind if I remember right.


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