In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards--and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter--her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.
Gr 5-10-Sheltered teenager Charmain Baker is sent by her domineering great-aunt to house-sit for a distant relative, the royal wizard. She finds that his residence has myriad magical rooms and hallways and soon learns that there is trouble in the seemingly peaceful kingdom of High Norland. The treasury is disappearing, and no one knows where the money is going. Princess Hilda invites Sophie Pendragon, the main character from Howl's Moving Castle (1986), to come help solve the mystery, with her husband, Howl, disguised as an annoying preschooler, and the fire-demon Calcifer. A lubbock, one of Jones's more threatening magical creations, and its offspring, the lubbockins, threaten the kingdom, and it's up to Charmain and her nascent magical talents-and her new friends-to save the day. A whirlwind conclusion sets all to rights and leaves Charmain ready to start life outside of her parents' shadow. Sophie and Howl play background roles here, as in Castle in the Air (HarperCollins, 2001), but readers will find Charmain much to their liking as she develops from a girl who is unable to take care of herself into a proactive and adventurous young woman.-Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Longtime fans and new readers alike will revel in Jones's self-assured return to the realm she charted in Howl's Moving Castle, a riff on English and German fairytales, and its Arabian Nights-themed sequel, Castle in the Air. When bookish, utterly selfish Charmain leaves home to care for her ailing great-uncle's magical house, she surprises herself by discovering her own hidden talents--and ends up helping save the kingdom of High Norland from the fearsome Lubbock. Brought up by her doting parents to be utterly "respectable" (which in her case translates to being astonishingly useless), Charmain is an unlikely heroine. Yet she easily holds center stage, even when the flamboyant Wizard Howl (of Moving Castle fame) appears midway through the novel. Beguiling enough on their own, Charmain's big and small adventures (bickering with the boy who comes to stay; attempting housework with hilarious results; mediating the disputes of the disgruntled tiny blue men who work behind the scenes) gain an added urgency thanks to the lurking menace of the Lubbock, who is easily among the scariest villains Jones has ever created. A tale to luxuriate in. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.