Written and Illustrated by Patricia Coombs
Young Readers Press, 1964
This is Dorrie. She is a witch. A little witch. Her hat is always on crooked and her stockings never match.
Recommended by: Heather (Iowa)
Who is Heather? I work away from home but my real job (and the one I most dearly love) starts at 5:30 p.m. when I walk in our back door. I’m a wife, mother, and all around crafty person.
How did you discover this book? I randomly picked it up in a bookstore or library.
What do you like about it? I lived across the street from the library as a child. I can remember being FASCINATED by this book enough to read it while I was there and then check it out again and again and again and again. I think the thing that pulled me in was Dorrie. She just looked cute and a little lost and I loved her cat. Also loved the fact that she wore mismatched socks. And that she was a little magic herself.
The plot in a nutshell: A young witch on her own is visited by a bad witch
Dorrie’s mother hears that Mildred, the bad witch, is near and rushes off to a meeting to discuss what to do. Since Cook stepped out to borrow some sugar, Dorrie is all alone. She fixes herself some cookies and milk, but is interrupted by a knock on the door. Thinking it’s Cook returning, Dorrie opens it and a blue witch enters, locking the door behind her. The Blue Witch tells Dorrie that she has come to take her away and asks Dorrie to go get ready to go. Dorrie says she needs to finish her cookies and milk and the witch asks for some herself. In the kitchen, Dorrie finds some shrinking powder to put into the witch’s milk. Once the with has shrunk, Dorrie sprays her with perfume (to knock her out), pops her into a small bottle and locks her in the piano. When her mother comes home, Dorrie tells her about the witch, who turns out to be Mildred. Her mother banishes Mildred and then helps Cook, whom Mildred had turned into a cup of sugar. The witches have a party for Dorrie and give her an award for witch catching.
Author/illustrator Patricia Coombs cites her youngest daughter and her cat (Dingbat) as the inspiration for Dorrie and her cat, Gink. That must have been some strong inspiration, since there were 20 books in the Dorrie series, published over 30 years, between 1962 and 1992. Almost all of them are out of print now, but you can get some of the titles (including this one) through print-on-demand service from Amazon. I remember reading a couple of the Dorrie books when I was young but had completely forgotten them until now, so reading through this was like a warm hug of nostalgia.
The artwork contributes to the nostalgic feel of this book, with its wonderful two color line drawings in pen and ink. I think one of Dorrie’s most appealing attributes is that she is so real and relatable, with her messy appearance and her ability to make mistakes and then deal with them coolly under pressure. I love, for instance, that she focuses on enjoying her milk and cookies while Mildred is threatening to turn to her into a turtle. She’s brave and smart but not unrealistically so, which makes her seem less mystical and more down to earth. Maybe early exposure to Dorrie contributed to so many of us adults getting into the Harry Potter books so strongly.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that staying calm and using your head are skills that always come in handy, even if you’re a witch.