Apologies in advance because I don't have much on this, as I more remember me reading the story than the actual story. In any case:

It concerns a girl, living with some older relative. There is definitely a house (they're living in the countryside or maybe though less likely suburbia, but certainly not in a bustling city). The girl, as best I can recall, is living with an older female relative (I think her grandmother), though I'm unsure whether it's just the two of them. There are also cats, which are significant to the story progression. I think the girl could also talk to or telepathically communicate with the cats. There may or may not be further magic involved (if there is, it definitely has to do with the cats), but I am unsure about this as I read it a long time ago on the same summer vacation I read Narnia, Nils Holgersson, Harry Potter, and a bunch of other fiction with young protagonists, so I might be mixing some details up. Cats, house, and older female relative were definitely unique to this one, though.

What I can recall very vividly is that the story had a very cozy feel, in a way that the other books, including Narnia and Harry Potter did not. The universe was also much more constrained than those other two. I read it in German, but I am unsure whether it's originally in German (I was reading almost everything in German at that age). This was all in the early 2000's, so the story is not newer than that, though it might be a lot older. I don't remember any technology in the house, but my guess is it's late 20th century literature (both in origin and setting).

Things which I thought of and which tick some of the boxes but are definitely not this story, include: Coraline, Pippi Longstocking.

Sorry about the sparse details again, I'd appreciate any suggestions!

  • 1
    I have the feeling I've read this, or something very similar, in which case it's probably an Andre Norton story but I can't think which one off the top of my head and she was extremely prolific, in the best possible way so it would take some searching.
    – Ash
    Jan 4, 2022 at 5:00
  • Possibly related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/225954/… Jan 4, 2022 at 23:22
  • This reminds me of the TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch
    – Ivo
    Jan 5, 2022 at 7:19

4 Answers 4



I am almost certain that this is Mary Stewart's 1971 YA fantasy novel The Little Broomstick, which in 2017 was turned into an animated movie titled Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花) by Hiromasa Yonebayashi,

It has the girl, Mary, living with an older relative (her aunt, IIRC), which interacts with a cat that needs help saving its sibling from a witches' school that does experiments on animals. With the cat's help, Mary finds an old witches' broomstick and some magic flowers that temporarily give her magic powers - enough to persuade the schoolmasters that she is a talented witch.

Goodreads has a nice summary:

A black cat that needs to rescue its brother from a witch's spell enlists the help of a lonely ten-year-old Mary Smith.It is Tib the black cat who leads Mary to the strange flower in the woods. When she discovers a little broomstick shortly afterwards, she is astonished to feel it jump in to action. Before she can gather her wits, it is whisking her over the treetops, above the clouds, and in to the grounds of Endor College, where: 'All Examinations Coached for by A Competent Staff of Fully-Qualified Witches.' Here she discovers evidence of a terrible experiment in transformation - deformed and mutant animals imprisoned in cages. In the moment after her broomstick takes off, she realises that Tib has been captured. Returning to the College the following day, she manages to free the animals, but not before the Head of the college, Miss Mumblechook, and her colleague, Doctor Dee, have seen her. Mary manages to flee... but the evil pair are in hot pursuit!

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My first guess is Andre Norton's "Octagon Magic". Just from my memory it fits the "cozy story of a young girl living with an older female relative + old house + magic + cat". But my memory is hazy, so I hunted up a review by Judith Tarr(!!) on the TOR web site. Here's a snippet.

Lorrie Mallard, aged eleven and a half, lives in a world of women. Boys are aliens and enemies. She’s kind of an alien herself: She’s Canadian, her parents are dead, her grandmother has been raising her but has gone off to England to recover from surgery, and she’s living with her working-woman aunt in a foreign country, the United States. One day while being pursued by a pack of boys, she finds refuge in a magical place: the local octagon house, also known as the witch’s house. [... Lorrie ventures in and finds it] is owned by an elderly lady dressed in Victorian finery, her equally Victorian-style Black housekeeper, and a small black kitten who sometimes serves as a guide to the magic of the house. The stately Miss Ashemeade teaches Lorrie the art of needlework and oversees a series of life lessons, most of which are taught with the aid of the kitten and an elaborate dollhouse that resides in a secret room and is the image of the house in its earlier days.

  • 1
    Why does Judith Tarr merit all of those exclamation marks?
    – Valorum
    Jan 4, 2022 at 7:09
  • 2
    Because usually random SF book reviews found by a quick internet search do not turn out to be written by a first rate SF author. Although some SF authors do try their hand at criticism, I was not previously aware that Judith Tarr was one such.
    – Ethan
    Jan 4, 2022 at 7:31
  • Judith Tarr has done a number of reviews and I think at least one series reread on tor.com. Several other significant authors post there fairly regularly, including Jo Walton. Jan 4, 2022 at 16:50

I suspect this is too young of a female relative, but Carbonel: King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh is at least a partial match.


Rosemary's plan to clean houses during her summer break and surprise her mother with the money hits a snag when an old lady at the market talks her into buying a second-rate broom and a cat she can't even afford to keep. But appearances can be deceiving. Some old ladies are witches, some brooms can fly, and some ordinary-looking cats are Princes of the Royal Blood. Rosemary's cat ("You may call me Carbonel. That is my name.") soon enlists her help in an adventure to free him from a hideous spell and return him to his rightful throne. But along the way Rosemary and her friend John must do some clever sleuthing, work a little magic of their own, and—not least— put up with the demands of a very haughty cat.


There are some parallels, but it's not a great match to "Running With The Demon", by Terry Brooks. There's a grandma, little girl, magic, living near a wooded area, but a wolf instead of a cat. And I don't remember if she has telepathy. This also verges on horror and there's quite a bit of magic, so it doesn't fit the "cozy" feel or the uncertain use of magic. This suggestion is more of a wild guess than a real suggestion.

Nest Freemark is a fourteen-year-old girl of Hopewell, Illinois, who has inherited magical powers from her mother's lineage. She lives with her grandmother Evelyn and grandfather Bob, as her mother apparently committed suicide at a young age. She is one of a rare few in the world who can see the spiritual warfare underlying the events in the real world. She can see "feeders" - small shadowy creatures that feed on human emotion, influence thoughts, and ultimately attempt to "devour" people, causing their real world demise. Nest is enlisted to guard the nearby park and wilderness, a regional feeding ground for feeders, as many generations of Freemark women before her. She is aided in this task by a six-inch tree-like sylvan named Pick, an insightful barn owl named Daniel, and an ethereal wolfen creature named Wraith, who appears at opportune moments to protect Nest, but whose origins are initially unknown.


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