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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 10 June 2011
I have loved Diana Wynne Jones' books ever since I first discovered them, and have devoured each eagerly as it's come out. I'd really looked forward to this - particularly as it will presumably be her last, following her sad death earlier this year. (Unless, maybe, perhaps, there is one still in the pipeline from her publishers.) "Earwig and the Witch" is vintage Wynne Jones, funny, quirky, intelligent and magical BUT, and it's a big but, it is very very short and clearly aimed at younger children. My 7 and 8 year olds will love it, but I'd hoped for something with a much older target - me! Her teen novels such as "Homeward Bounders" are superb - enthralling and brilliantly conceived and written. This is great for its target readership but I had wanted more.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 February 2014
Let's pause and bow our heads for a moment. Last year, we lost one of the greatest fantasy authors, Diana Wynne-Jones.

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.
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on 30 June 2011
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.
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on 3 August 2011
This will be a little review to suit a little book. A little book, but one that contains bag-fulls of charm, magic, mayhem and talking cats. Earwig is an orphan who was left on the steps of St Morwald's Home for Children. She has managed to entwine the inhabitants of the Children's Home round her little finger, and all now do her bidding. So she is beyond dismayed when Bella Yaga and the Mandrake come to the Home and choose Earwig to take home with them. Bella Yaga is a witch and determines that she is going to use Earwig as a second set of hands. Earwig is just as determined that she won't be used for that - and sparks certainly fly.

Diana Wynne Jones is sorely missed - an author who mixed mundane and magical to produce stories of great delight. I equate Diana Wynne Jones with Roald Dahl - someone who knew how to entertain children, not talk down to them, and introduced both darkness and humour to their tales.

Accompanying the text of Earwig and the Witch are atmospheric illustrations from the pen of Marion Lindsay - cute and eerie, all at once.

As I said above, I was utterly charmed by this novel and think that anyone who has enjoyed a Diana Wynne Jones in the past will love this dark little gem.
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For those who are not ready yet for Wynne Jones's output for older readers like the Chrestomanci series, this is the perfect introduction to her work. This is a short, well paced, funny story for ages four to eight. Earwig is a girl who was abandoned by her mother at an orphanage when she was a baby. Unlike the other orphans, Earwig likes the orphanage and wants to stay there. Her plans go awry when she is chosen by the witch Bella Yaga to go home with her. Earwig is a resourceful child, and once at Bella Yaga's house she attempts to get everyone in the house, including the mysterious Mandrake, a nine foot tall man with horns and red eyes. It has just the right mix of the macabre and silly and for those less confident readers, there are some great illustrations to break up the text.
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on 16 January 2013
A nice, quick little story. The Author is very good at gettig your attention and keeping it right from the first chapter. You feel sorry for the little orphan, Earwig, at first, then as she begins to find her feet, you're behind her all the way, an enchanting read.
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on 21 April 2012
My 4 year old first picked this book at the library and insisted on us reading it out over and over at bedtime. We couldn't believe how many times we have read through it! So we bought it and it's still running strong as the favourite!
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on 12 August 2013
9yr old chose this. Entire family enjoyed listening to it, including 67yr gramps who stayed up late one night to finish reading it!
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on 30 April 2016
such a nice story and the hardback cover is heavy and feels good quality very happy :D
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on 15 March 2015
NOt her best one
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