In Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947), part two of Mary Norton’s BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS duology, it’s two years after events of the first book, The Magic Bed-Knob. The three young siblings, Carey, Charles and Paul, get the chance to leave London and spend the summer in Bedfordshire with their spinster friend, Miss Price, who was a witch in training. And they still have the magic bed-knob that enables them to fly through time and space on Paul’s old bed, which is now in Miss Price’s bedroom! Good magical times ahead!
Or maybe not: Miss Price, while pleased to see them, has decided that being a witch is a Bad Idea, and she’s given up magic. But, the children argue, almost anything is fine in moderation, and they never did get the chance to try the time-traveling aspect of the bed-knob. Maybe just one little trip into the past? It is rather tempting, Miss Price agrees …
Meanwhile, in London in late August, 1666, a 35-year-old, nervous necromancer named Emelius Jones has just taken over the magical practice of his old mentor, who told Emelius on his deathbed that there really was no magic involved in what they do; it’s just fooling people. But then three strangely-dressed (but polite!) children show up on Emelius’s doorstep.
Bonfires and Broomsticks is another charming, old-fashioned magical adventure, this one focused on time travel. The plot didn’t go at all in the direction I expected. For example, when the children first meet Emelius and find out what date it is, Carey brightly comments that the Fire of London will occur in a week’s time (you have to admire her outstanding memory for historical dates). One might be forgiven for thinking that a suspenseful and dangerous scene involving the children escaping death in the fire is in the cards, but Norton has something quite different in mind, though it does relate to the London fire.
Bonfires and Broomsticks has even less connection to the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks than The Magic Bed-Knob does, aside from having a plot element involving a magical spell called “intrasubstantiary locomotion” (called “substitutiary locomotion” in the film). But the plot is entirely different, and should be enjoyed on its own merits. It’s definitely worth checking out if you liked the first book, and the pair is available on Kindle for just $4.99. Both are middle-grade level reading.