Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Walking Castles and Chick-Magnet Suits...

I have a theory. A book doesn't have to have a complicated plot line that's knee-deep in mythology or characters who you feel like may have actually been in your 10th grade chemistry class. A book doesn't have to be momentous and busting out of it's pants to be good. There. I said it. Slay me now.

Why this realization? Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle reminded me of how much I love a simple fairy-taleish book.

Basically, Sophie is a young woman (18?) who has resigned herself to life as a marmy blue-hair before she's really lived her life, a personality trait that plays a key role in the story when the evil Witch of the Waste actually transforms Sophie into a 90-year-old. Perfect.
Sophie ambles out of town and barges in to the (supposedly evil) Wizard Howl's moving castle where she meets Calcifer, a fire demon, who swears he can change her back. It's no surprise that we find out Howl is not evil and that he and Sophie become dependant on one another. What is suprising? Sophie's a little bit magic and she is probably one of the most stubborn characters I've met in awhile. Seriously. She's an imp. An old imp. I love her.
There are also some interesting sisters, Howl's enchanted chick-magnet suit (yeah, he's that kind of guy), a scarecrow, and a magic door.

With all the magic in this book, you would think that there would be duels, wands, lightening bolts cracking through the air, but no. Jones' magic is a quiet enchantment that doesn't brag, doesn't question, and isn't even amazed by itself. It felt like a great fairytale. I can't wait until Netflix delivers the movie version! It's an animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo, Spirited Away), which is perfect for this book. I'm sure the animation will be enchanting and the plot not too pushy.

Rowdiness Factor: Sophie is something else.... Even though she "settles down" in the end, Jones was careful to let us know that her spunkiness did not waiver. Thank you for not turning her into a "happy housewife"...she's already cleaned Howl's entire castle. That's plenty.
Rrrrr: I don't really understand why the eldest child is doomed to fail. Also, it wraps up really quickly...if the last chapter of the book is eaten by a wild goose when you're on a picnic, then you miss all the resolution. Sorry. Hit up the library.

PS--Thanks to one of my awesome students for loaning me this book. You were right--I loved it!

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