Monday, January 13, 2014

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones books are always good, and they usually get better on rereading, so I was quite happy when I was able to download a copy of Earwig and the Witch from the library and do my reread via audio book. This is the first time I've listened to it, and Charlotte Parry does an incredible job. I ended up listening to it more than once because I wasn't anywhere I could change books--and that was fine with me!

Earwig and the Witch is a children's book for early readers just getting into chapter books, so don't expect complexity. Do expect fun, and a dose of Diana Wynne Jones eeriness. Earwig is an appealing, and almost entirely amoral kid who just wants her way. She is quite happy at the orphanage where she was left as a child because she has a number of people to boss around and figures no family can ever match that. When she's adopted by a witch and a very strange man (or demon? It's never really clear quite what the Mandrake is), she has to team up with the resident cat and do some quick thinking to get her own way.

Part of what makes the book work so well is that Earwig is basically a likeable child. She wants her own way, but she isn't mean about it: She has a good friend, she bargains well with the cat, and she's not out to cause trouble for its own sake. The other part is that Earwig usually does get her own way, through sheer strength of will, and that is incredibly fun. Her new house is pleasantly but not scarily spooky.

I am so sad that this is the last Diana Wynne Jones ever!

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