Howl’s moving castle

This is good… feeling decidedly under the weather this weekend and, instead of me reading to Sam… he reads to me!! Luxury!

We’d seen Hayao Miyazaki’s cartoon version before we read Diana Wynne Jones’s book. Both are brilliant. The two seem made for each other: transformations, flights, quests, battles…

The story is about a girl called Sophie who, for no reason that she can understand, is turned by the Witch of the Waste into a 90 year old, at least in body. She can’t stay at home, and so wonders out onto the moor where she encounters the castle of the notorious Wizard Howl…

Sam pulled this one off the shelf because he’s such a Miyazaki fan, but the book is different from the film, still very inventive, perfectly written, full of surprises, even if you’ve seen the film. There’s even a poem by Donne, which Howl’s apprentice and Sophie mistake for a spell and try to execute:

Go, and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me, where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

There are two other books set in the same fantasy world too, Castle in the Air (1990)  and  House of Many Ways  (2008).

Diane Wynne Jones says of all this wild humour and chaos she has created:

‘It’s a terrible thing to be a child, particularly if you’re one down for personal reasons. I set out to provide comfort for those… One of the things I can do is put a problem in a way that they can walk all around it without pain and with a certain amount of joy, making it funny on purpose. Children use jokes in order to make things bearable.’

To those who don’t understand the importance of children’s books she says:

‘I do find that there is a tremendous responsibility. It’s always on the cards that you’ll write a children’s book which will shape them as an adult… Really what a book can give is experience in all meanings of the word, not just being exciting or entertaining but experience in the world with people. I lend my own experience to children.’

Sophie cleans up Howl's castle


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