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Friday, July 29, 2011

Earwig and the Witch, written by Diana Wynne-Jones and illustrated by Marion Lindsay. Harper, 2011. $10.99 ages 6 and up

"It took  ages to clear up and put all the things back so that Bella Yaga would not guess any of them had been used. After that she had to wash the slime off her feet and then clean the slimy footprints off the hall floor. Earwig nearly fell asleep on the floor while she was doing that."

Earwig has no concerns about living in an orphanage. She has a great deal of power there. She has often been passed over when people come looking for foster children. Imagine her surprise when an exceedingly eccentric pair take an interest, and then take her home with them!

Earwig has been at St. Morwald's since babyhood and she has come to enjoy the comfort that it offers. She has friends, and is able to get most everything she wants by asking for it. When she is taken to the home of Bella Yaga and The Mandrake, life changes dramatically.

She soon discovers that Bella Yaga isn't particularly interested in her personality or her company; rather, she wants Earwig to be her servant. She is meant to fetch, carry and bow to the wishes of the witch who has become her 'mother'.  But Earwig is nothing, if not determined and independent. She has no intention of going peacefully into servitude. She enlists the help of a 'familiar'...the cat Thomas. She is not averse to sneakiness, and is soon stealing magic potions from Bella Yaga. 

There's enough humor that I basically smiled my way through the entire read. There's a touch of mystery, and certainly some magic. What a great book to share with a child, and an excellent introduction to the work of this brilliant storyteller. We are all sad that this is her last book, but delighted that it will find a new generation of fans. If this is your introduction to her body of work, don't stop now. There is so much more to enjoy!

I love the bright red cover, the quirky characters, the spiders and crows that adorn each page. They provide context for the early reader and a creepy, funny backdrop for this droll tale.

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