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EARWIG AND THE WITCH Hardcover – 9 Jun 2011
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“…a delightful sampler of her originality and imagination, with small unexpected touches.” Nicolette Jones, Sunday Times Culture, Children’s Book of the Week
“There's a nice helping of magic and some brisk upbeat sentiment in this crisply written story… How the feisty Earwig outwits the pair with her own special skills and the help of Bella Yaga's cat Thomas is deliciously entertaining.” Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian
Praise for ENCHANTED GLASS:
‘Wynne Jones is superb, mixing the comical with the magical’
From the Back Cover
Got the other twelve witches all chasing me. I'll be back for her when I've shook them off. It may take years. Her name is Earwig.
Earwig has been at the orphanage ever since she was a baby. That's just how she likes it. She has her best friend, Custard, and everyone always does exactly what Earwig wants. She never wants to leave, so she makes sure no one ever picks her.
Then a very strange couple comes to the orphanage. They try to make themselves look ordinary. But Earwig knows they are not, not in the least. And they choose her, out of all the other children.
Earwig could be in for quite an unpleasant surprise. But so could the very strange couple.--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product description
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Before she passed away, Jones wrote one last book containing the usual things you would expect: an irrepressible orphan, a witch, spells, a cat, and lots of magical forces. But sadly, "Earwig and the Witch" is not really up to Jones' usual brilliance -- it's a fun book, but it feels like an unfinished draft that ends abruptly, without dealing with all the plot threads.
Earwig (aka Erica Wigg) has spent her whole life in an orphanage, and has no desire to be adopted by anybody. But despite her best efforts, she IS adopted by a mysterious pair -- a witch named Bella Yaga (also a nickname for Bella Swan), and a mysterious horned man called the Mandrake. Bella Yaga only adopted Earwig so she would have unpaid labor.
Soon Earwig decides to make the best of her situation, and learn some of the many strange spells that Bella Yaga is working on. She also has an unexpected new ally: the witch's talking cat, Thomas. With his help, she might be able to master enough magic to make Bella Yaga regret ever treating her like a slave...
"Earwig and the Witch" has that distinct Diana Wynne Jones charm -- talking cats, magic books, suburban witches, overwhelming Britishness and a wicked sense of humor. It also has a bittersweet tang, since this is the last Diana Wynne Jones fantasy novel we'll get (unless they find some hidden manuscripts somewhere).
Earwig is a delightful heroine -- strong-willed, feisty and willing to bide her time so she can mess around with the annoying witch who dragged her away from her old home. It's hinted that there's more to Earwig than meets the eye, but it's never developed. Thomas is also a fun character, a sardonic cat who reluctantly helps Earwig with her spells, and the mysteriously sulfurous Mandrake.
Unfortunately... the book doesn't feel finished. It feels more like the first third of one of Jones' books -- there are a bunch of things that seem to be significant (Custard, the note from Earwig's mother) but are never picked up. At the end, you're left thinking, "That's it? It's OVER?"
"Earwig and the Witch" is a sad book -- not just sad because it was Jones' final novel, but because it feels like she never really finished it. But it has charm and magic as a coda to her career. Farewell, Ms. Jones.
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.
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