Briefly: the plot involves a little girl in an orphanage who gets everything she wants. She is picked out to be fostered by a strange couple, the woman turning out to be a mean old witch and the man is actually some kind of supernatural being, and no longer does the little girl get everything she wants. She teams up with the witch's talking cat and the two devise ways to make their lives better.
This is possibly Diana Wynne Jones's last book (I've heard there may be one more coming out in the next year -although they are rereleasing Dogsbody with a Neil Gaiman introduction, so that may be the book they're referring to). Sadly, this is one of her shortest books, feeling as if it belongs in a collection of shorts such as her Stopping for a Spell or Warlock at the Wheel.
It's a wonderful, Diana-esque book, obviously aimed at a younger audience. Lines are generously spaced, the text is large, and there are plenty of illustrations (quirky, fitting illustrations by Marion Lindsay in the UK version. The U.S. version to come out Jan. 31, 2012 will be illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky), so the 144 page book really amounts to very little to read. I read it in 45 minutes, which is definitely why it feels like it should be in a collection of short stories. As a children's book it's fine, but those of us used to Diana's lengthy, thorough story-telling it is way too short. I wanted more!
It's all Diana though, and she created a quaint, interesting world and characters, as usual. My only wish was that the ending (basically the last chapter) was more elaborated on and the book was longer (while I was reading it with the fact it's geared toward younger children in mind, I couldn't help but think that part of the reason it is not as in-depth as many of her other books is because she was ill while writing it - but that doesn't affect the quality - it just makes you want to learn more about the characters and the world, but it is never given to you. Usually Diana does give you all the answers by the end of her books - she wraps everything up in a nice little package). But it was cute.
It is a must-have for those who love Diana, especially being her last (known) original book before her passing March 26, 2011. She was an inspired and creative genius and the world will be at a loss without her bright new stories. I always looked forward to the newest release of hers every year or two. Thankfully she was a prolific author, and has over 42 titles published. She left the world with a part of her and I am truly grateful to her. Diana, you will be greatly missed.