Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
My rating: 4.5 of 5
In the children’s home where Earwig and her friend Custard grew up, most of the children are excited and nervous when foster parents come through to pick which children they’ll take home. Not Earwig; she makes faces and tries hard not to be chosen. Why would she want to leave when everyone at the home does exactly what she wants them to? But one day, and ugly, wrinkly old woman and a tall, skinny man (whom Earwig could swear has horns) come through and, against all odds, decide to take Earwig home. Not home to a loving family, of course, but to be the witch’s assistant–the ugly woman being the witch, naturally, and a mean one as well. Earwig, not so easily discouraged, takes up the challenge to make this ornery, strange household do what she wants just like the people at the home did . . . and quite a challenge it’s going to be!
If you’ve been around my blog much at all, you’re well aware that Diana Wynne Jones is one of my absolute favorite authors. Earwig and the Witch was actually a new read for me, and quite the fun story it was as well. It’s a shorter story than most of hers, only 6 chapters, if I recall correctly (I’m not bothering to look right now), but told with all her usual aplomb. The plot is also a bit simpler, making this accessible to a younger (say upper elementary, perhaps?) audience. I think what struck me most about this story is that the main character is, in a sense, rather as awful and ornery as the witch herself–which is possibly why they fit so well together. But the way in which this clever, determined child finds ways to beat the stronger, better-positioned adults is oddly reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s writing at times. I really loved it! Earwig and the Witch is a highly recommended read all around.