Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Diana Wynne Jones
For ages 9 to 12
Greenwillow Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-0061478789

As the eldest of three daughters Sophie is convinced that she is going to be the one who is not going to do what she wants with her life. Instead she will be condemned to doing what is asked of her. And this is just how things go for a while. After her father dies Sophie's sister Lettie is apprenticed to a baker, and her sister Martha is sent to learn from a witch. Sophie is to stay and apprentice in the family hat shop under her step-mother's guidance. This is not what Sophie wants to do but she feels that she has no choice but to accept what happens to her.

And then something happens that turns Sophie's life upside down. The wicked Witch of the Waste comes into the hat shop and out of sheer spite and envy she turns young and pretty Sophie into an ancient wizened crone. Not wanting her family to see her as she is, Sophie decides to leave home to seek her fortune.

And that is why Sophie ends up walking in the countryside when the wizard Howl's moving castle comes trundling by. Night is falling and it is getting cold so Sophie decides to take shelter in the castle. She meets Howl's young apprentice and the fire demon, Calcifer, who lives in the fireplace. Calcifer tells Sophie that he and Howl made a contract which Calcifer wants broken. If Sophie breaks the contract then Calcifer will find a way to free her from the witch's spell. The problem is that Califer cannot tell Sophie what the contract is. She has to figure it out for herself.

And so Sophie stays in Howl's moving castle working as his housekeeper, trying to find out all she can about her mysterious host's secrets.

In this very unusual and magical book Diana Wynne Jones takes her readers on a truly extraordinary adventure. Marvelous characters fill the pages, and readers will have a hard time trying to guess what is going to happen next.

Of course this is only what we would expect from this consummately gifted storyteller.