A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book written by Diana Wynne Jones just before her death includes an imaginative world that is reminiscent of Howl's Moving Castle, as it's set in a magician's house that changes its geography. This fantasy world is easier to grasp than some of Jones' other, more complex worlds and features a grouchy witch and a powerful devil-like figure with a penchant for comfort food. The slightly scary parts are quickly over and tempered with humor and a brave heroine.
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What's the story?
Earwig loves the orphanage in which she was born and raised, where she can always get everyone to do what she wants and appreciates the people who take care of her. But after an odd-looking woman and a 9-foot tall man take her home to live with them, for the first time in her life, Earwig has to do something she doesn't want to. Rather than get discouraged when the unpleasant woman tells Earwig she must help her prepare witch spells, the girl sees it as her biggest challenge. With Thomas the talking cat serving as her familiar and friend, Earwig patiently waits for opportunities to turn the tide her way.
Is it any good?
Though it's delightful to have one last book from Jones after her death, and it starts out promising with all the trademarks of her writing, it feels unfinished and not quite fully developed. For example, a note left on Earwig when she was a baby implies that Earwig herself is a witch, but it is never followed up on, and the last, very brief chapter of the book begins, "A year went by," and has an ending that seems tacked on. Still, Earwig is likable and readers will enjoy her comical adventures as she tries to outsmart the witch. Early readers will especially appreciate Paul O. Zelinsky's cartoony drawings, which break up the text with spot illustrations and occasional full-page spreads.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Earwig is used to getting everyone to do what she wants. For Earwig, is that a good quality, or a bad one?
What do you think the note that was pinned to Earwig's shawl when she was left on the doorstep of the orphanage meant?
What spells from the witch's book would you find useful?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love magic and fantasy
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