Thursday, March 1, 2012

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones

Earwig and the Witch is the last book from Diana Wynne Jones, one of my all-time favorite authors. It's always hard for me to pick up and read a "last book" (I still haven't read the final Madeleine L'Engle that's been sitting on my shelf since just after she passed away), but this time, I managed it.

Earwig loves life at St. Morwald's Home for Children. She has everyone, from the matron to the cook to the youngest orphan, under her thumb. She has no intention of being adopted -- until Bella Yaga and the Mandrake show up. Bella Yaga proves to have an even stronger personality than Earwig . . . or does she? Bella Yaga and the Mandrake take Earwig home with them despite her objections. Though Earwig is homesick for the orphanage, she is hopeful that Bella Yaga will teach her some magic. Bella Yaga, however, is only looking for "another pair of hands" -- someone to chop ingredients and stir cauldrons and clean the workroom. What follows is an epic battle of wills. Will Earwig convince Bella Yaga to teach her magic, or has the determined young girl finally met her match?

This book is so typically Diana Wynne Jones -- quirky and funny and delightful. It skews a little younger than many of Jones' other books, so will serve as a great introduction for young readers. Earwig doesn't seem a sympathetic character at first, but by the end of the book, readers will be firmly under her spell.

Goodbye, Diana -- you are missed already.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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