Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diana Wynne Jones: Earwig and the Witch

Earwig and the Witch
When I go into a library for the first time, I use a standard method for evaluating its awesomeness. First, I walk into the children's section and check the N shelves for E. Nesbit; this tells me how deep the library is in ancient treasures. Then I amble over to the J shelf and count the Diana Wynne Jones books. Now I know its strength in modern day wonders. Yet now that it's been a year since her death, I suppose I need a newer author, but who can stand up to the greatness of DWJ?

I read Archer's Goon, and didn't really get it. Was I supposed to have to pay this much attention? There was some kind of mistake; the author seemed to be giving the reader a lot of credit, which couldn't be right. Then I found Howl's Moving Castle and fell in love, and went back to get everything.  Which led me to Crestomanci, and Cat, and Polly of Fire and Hemlock, which I still reread and understand more fully each time. She was willing to have her characters (kids!) pay actual prices for their actions -- I love Homeward Bounders because no one comes back and says that the hero doesn't have to make a sacrifice, his bravery was enough. Because part of that courage was knowing that it was necessary, and knowing he's still out there is comforting. Some hope is OK; maybe Sirius will find a way back after Dogsbody.

My Renton library does very well on these tests, incidentally, and in fact when I got to the J shelf I found a new book by her, which was a miracle and a delight and a sign that I haven't been stalking her closely enough on the Internet. Earwig and the Witch is a short book, rich with characteristic descriptions and a strong willed girl who could be Gwendolyn on a darker day. And knowing that this is probably the last time I will be delighted by finding an unread DWJ book makes me more than a little sad.

Except that I have children, some of whom have not met all of her books. I think I know who the author of my next pick for the Family Book Club will be. It might be my fifth grader's first introduction -- any suggestions as to which book I should pick?

P.S. Actually, I had Earwig and the Witch on my to-read list from last March. I guess I didn't rush out to find it because now I have read all the books, and there won't be any more.

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