In the interests of full disclosure, I grew up on this story. I used to listen to Dick Weir’s radio show for kids on weekend mornings (morning TV wasn’t a thing until I was a bit older), and it was always a great day when he played Badjelly. I also raised my now-adult daughter on the story of courageous siblings who are searching for their lost cow, and meet a cast of interesting characters along the way. I am, as you can already tell, a fan.
What I wanted to see was if today’s kids would still appreciate Badjelly in all its un-PC, analogue glory. So, roll on up, my 5-7 year-old students: welcome to a piece of your teacher’s childhood.
I read the book in chunks. Milligan helpfully broke the text into sections, so I stuck with this and read the story over a couple of days like a mini-novel. The kids loved it. They laughed at the funny bits and gasped at the tense bits. They enjoyed the pictures (in colour, no less!) and were impressed that Spike Milligan had actually handwritten his story, just like they do.
What I was really looking forward was watching the children listen to the CD. I didn’t own a copy of the book until I was an adult, so my memories are aural. I’ve probably listened to the story about a hundred times … I’ve heard it so many times that when I read it aloud, I can’t help but read it in my best Spike Milligan imitation.
The kids enjoyed the CD, but couldn’t listen to the whole thing in one go … I’m not sure if it’s the “attention span of today’s yoof”, or just that classroom floors after lunch don’t foster the same cosy feelings as my childhood lounge floor in my PJs.
In hardback and in colour, with the CD, this has got to be the definitive version of Badjelly the Witch. If your household has small people in it, you need a copy. If you know small people, they need a copy. If you’re like me and grew up in the late 70s, you probably need a copy too, for nostalgia’s sake.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
Badjelly the Witch, with audio CD
by Spike Milligan
Published by Puffin