Meg and Mog
“Once upon a time there was a witch called Meg. At midnight, the owl hooted 3 times and woke her up. She got out of bed to dress for ther spell party. She put on her black stockings, her big black shoes, her long black cloak and her tall black hat.”
And so begins a series that has delighted children for over 40 years.
Meg, with her trusty black cat Mog and Owl have had a number of adventures over time, although sadly there will be no more as Helen Nicoll died in 2012. Pienkowski, continues to illustrate even though he is well into his 80s.
It’s easy to see why these characters are favourites who have endured so long. Apart from the appeal of the stories which are straightforward, usually based on Meg messing up, and expressed in simple sentences, usually one to a page, the visual impact is enormous. The text is in a font that resembles a child’s printing and goes uphill and down to emphasise the meaning and is accompanied by speech bubbles and other techniques to make the words come alive. Pienkowski’s illustrations suit this perfectly because they are simple and clean, often just a combination of basic lines and shapes against a background of plain, vivid colour.
The series has been made into a television production (available on YouTube) which sticks close to the originals and bring them to life, but I believe the greatest value of these stories, apart from the sheer fun and colour, is their contribution to the development of early reading behaviours that are critical for later success. The sentence structure, font, and layout are so supportive that even the very young can join in and read along, recognise words and believe they are readers.. They can practise drawing the characters because of their simplicity and there is a host of teaching ideas that are available through an online search.
There are few early readers who have been in my care who have not met these wonderful characters.