Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book: Earwig and the Witch

Earwig and the Witch By Dianna Wynne Jones. Greenwillow Books, 2012. 128 pages.

A baby was left at an orphanage with a note: "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."

Imagine having a name like Earwig... isn't that so much better than Erica, the name given to her by the orphanage's Matron upon reading the note?

 Life in the orphanage is great for Earwig - she practically runs the place. She has a best friend named Custard, he is perfect for Earwig because of his timid nature. Earwig is used to getting her own way and has managed to charm or sometimes even boss others into doing what she wants. From hide-and-seek games in the scary and dark orphanage, to demands of a special lunch of Shepherd's Pie prepared for her by the cook, Earwig ensures her life is just as she likes it - her way, which is why she never wants to leave the orphanage - and why should she?

Unfortunately for her, the day comes when a strange couple walks through the doors and despite all her attempts to look unappealingly un-adoptable, Earwig gets chosen. She was never prepared to leave her safe haven, especially with the mismatched couple. The woman, who looks "raggety" with her big, red hat is apparently a witch and the man who appears to have horns on his head also has fiery eyes is not someone you want to live with... but Earwig has no choice, she is now going to be the witch's assistant.

Life in the witch's household is very strange, indeed, there are is no front door and the windows don't open - the garden is so wild and overgrown that there's no way to get through. The witch, Bella Yaga, has her doing all sorts of odd jobs from grinding down bones to picking plants from the tangled mess that is a garden. The man gets upset very easily and uses his demon minions to get him what he wants - even the witch is afraid of him. Earwig's only friend is Thomas the black cat, who surprises her one day by talking back! Together they attempt to use one of the witch's spells against her in hopes of making their lives a little bit better...

Dianna Wynne Jones has written many charming tales about magic. Earwig and the Witch is, as far as we know, her last book. Jones passed away in 2011; the world lost another great author. Earwig, a precocious little girl, will make readers laugh at her plans to ensure that things go her way. Jones' imaginative book about someone so small with a personality that is oh-so-big is not only fun to read but sends a message about solving problems.
The illustrations in this book are done by Caldecott winner, Paul O. Zelinsky. The amusing pen and ink illustrations show Earwig in all her attempts to make things go her way.

Ages 8+.