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July 13, 2004

Howl's Moving Castle: a Digression

The trailer for Miyazaki's next film, Howl's Moving Castle, is online now. It's based on a book by Diane Wynne Jones, one of my favourite authors. One of my favourite authors because I really like her books, and tracked them all down in the lean years when it was necessary to scour second-hand bookshops for rare hardbacks, and one of my favourite authors because she's a really nice person.

We went back to Borders for another accident (there's something about large bookshops with everything on one level and coffee to drink while you're browsing), and I picked up River of Gods. The link there is to a Guardian review by Chris Priest, who really has no business accusing others of writing books that are difficult to follow. This is the first Ian McDonald I've read, and I conclude that I've been discriminating against his books for no better reason than that he has the same name as my father.

Anyway, back to Diana. In Borders there was an entire shelf of her books, all matching jackets and special promotions on the new one and all sorts. This may reflect the fact that her novels include several excellent and critically-acclaimed tales set in various schools of magic; a theme she's been exploring for decades.

Digressing again but staying on theme: Marianne's very fond of Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, another pre-Potter series of books about witches-in-training. On 'come as a character from a book' day at school she dressed up as Mildred Hubble. I warned her that people would mistake her for Hermione. "Who's Hermione?" was her response. One of the joys of Saturday was that I pressed Charlotte's Web onto Marianne, who had read Stuart Little repeatedly after seeing the film, and she came home and read it cover to cover.

And I'm really looking forward to seeing Howl's Moving Castle.

Posted by Alison at July 13, 2004 10:01 AM


The Worst Witch - they are showing the TV adaptation of this on ITV at the moment ... I think they started with episode one yesterday afternoon. The clip I saw did look quite good (though the inevitable "Harry Potter" comparison had to be made)

Posted by: Chris O'Shea at July 13, 2004 11:45 AM

I like Diana if only for the fact that she's made me a secret mistress of the universe...

More power to her elbow.

Posted by: Sue Mason at July 14, 2004 02:28 PM

"This may reflect the fact that her novels include several excellent and critically-acclaimed tales set in various schools of magic".

Can I quibble here? Many of Diana's books revolve around the learning of magic, but I don't remember any actual schools that teach magic.

Far more often, there's one-on-one tuition (Christopher Chant) or learning in the real world (Drowned Ammet).

There are a lot of schools in the backgrounds of the stories (The Ogre Downstairs), but the only book that I can remember that revolves around a school is Witch Week, in which the school is part of the system that suppresses magic.

Are there some books I've forgotten about? I'm quite prepared to believe that.

I suspect this may reflect Diana's personal ideas about how magic works. In particular, that she regards it as something where book learning is not appropriate.

I hope it's that. Because if she set out to refute the Harry Potter books before they were written, that's worrying.

Posted by: Michael Abbott at July 19, 2004 01:27 PM

Er, you may very well be right. I think I should go and re-read all her books. I was thinking of Charmed Life and Witch Week. I've just finished The Merlin Conspiracy, which certainly has children learning magic in something akin to a school setting (as well as in lots of other, more effective ways).

Posted by: Alison Scott at July 26, 2004 10:10 PM

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