I learned yesterday that Diana Wynne Jones, the brilliant and prolific writer of children’s and young adult fantasy books, passed away this week after a long illness. What better way to celebrate her life, I thought, than to recommend her wonderful books to our readers!
Her book Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favourites. I first saw the film version of it, a full-length animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) which we have in our adult AV department. I loved the movie so much that I decided to read the book. I was not disappointed! The story follows Sophie, a young hatmaker who is cursed with premature old age by the nasty Witch of the Waste. Sophie must go to see the dreaded Wizard Howl in his moving castle in order to get the spell reversed. She winds up living and working in the castle, but things do not go at all as she expects: Howl is not a horrible monster but a handsome and rather charmingly flawed figure; Howl’s apprentice and fire demon prove equally lovable; and even Sophie surpasses her own very low expectations of herself. The magic in this story is fantastic and ingenious, the characters are lovable and surprising, and the plot twists in directions you’d never expect, even for those who have seen the film. I highly recommend it to readers aged 8 to 118.