"I would like to declare Diana Wynne Jones an international treasure," proclaimed Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist and best-selling author. In this enchanting introduction to Diana Wynne Jones's magical and funny work, Earwig is a fearless young orphan. When she finds herself in a house of dark magic, she does whatever she can to adapt—especially if it means that she'll learn a little magic herself! A young middle grade novel by World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement‒winner Diana Wynne Jones, beautifully illustrated in black and white by Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.
Not every orphan would love living at St. Morwald's Home for Children, but Earwig does. She gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, and it's been that way since she was dropped on the orphanage doorstep as a baby. But all that changes the day Bella Yaga and the Mandrake come to St. Morwald's, disguised as foster parents. Earwig is whisked off to their mysterious house full of invisible rooms, potions, and spell books, with magic around every corner. Most children would run in terror from a house like that . . . but not Earwig. Using her own cleverness—with a lot of help from a talking cat—she decides to show the witch who's boss.
This funny story updates fairy tale conventions while highlighting Jones's subversive wit and her firm belief that children can control their own lives. Earwig rules the roost at St. Morwald's Home for Children until she is adopted by a witchy woman named Bella Yaga with "one brown eye and one blue one, and a raggety, ribby look to her face." Earwig hopes to learn magic from Bella Yaga, but is trapped in the woman's decrepit house, sharing it with the Mandrake, an impossibly tall and grouchy being. Powerful and evil, Bella Yaga uses Earwig as a second pair of hands for grinding up disgusting things in bowls ("The only thing wrong with magic is that it smells so awful," Earwig quips). The witch and the Mandrake, however, have never before dealt with a determined girl who claims alpha status; Zelinsky's spot art, not all seen by PW, makes it clear that the squinty, pigtailed heroine is not someone to be trifled with. Featuring delightfully odd characters and eccentric magic, this all too brief tale is a fine introduction to the late author's more complex YA novels. Ages 8 12.