Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Reading Level: 5th to 7th
Publisher: Firebird (Penguin Putnam)
Edition: Hardcover, 2007
I find this short fantasy highly entertaining and extremely delightful. Diana Wynne Jones has such a strong sense of language to convey humor, mystery, the fantastic world and its richly drawn characters. For example, when Haley first met Tollie, and was taunted by him, her thoughts were, to “pull pieces off him — ears, nose, fingers… so long as they came away with lots of blood–” (p. 4, p.5) This extreme thought both illustrates Haley’s feisty personality and also establishes the tone of the story early on. That it is going to be full of strong emotions and funny bits. And throughout the book, this tone is consistent.
There are vivid scenes that have stayed with me for months: the raw pork chop stuck in the drain, Flute and Fiddle standing by the street corners walking through walls, performing magic, Aunt Aster being carried in Orion’s arms racing down the street, the various beautiful and dangerous strands and encounters in the Mythosphere. I am impressed by the author’s ability to weave a very rich story within a slim volume.
Many other light observations that are both humorous and acute such as this, “Nodding and smiling turned out to be a habit with Marthya. She used it instead of understanding English. She used it particularly when Grandma told her to clean the silver or sweep the stairs.” (p. 31)
I also really enjoyed how the readers are as puzzled, confused, and baffled as Haley at the beginning of the story, and, how, there are clues that the readers start to piece together to get the whole picture, while Haley still is unaware of the situation… but eventually, there is enough of a surprise toward the end that it won’t bore the readers who have somewhat figured out these characters. Jones’ ability to weave tales together ambiguously and then slowly revealing the inter-dependent details is once again so masterfully done. Each character is drawn so vividly and every danger is breath taking. What a treat!