Oh boy! This may be my favorite of all the Joan Aiken books. Dido Twite is simply one of the greatest characters I've ever read. I wonder if anyone wr...moreOh boy! This may be my favorite of all the Joan Aiken books. Dido Twite is simply one of the greatest characters I've ever read. I wonder if anyone writing today could handle the challenge of a story with an adult Dido as protagonist?
"At the beginning, Dido is an eccentric, somewhat snappy child, with little to endear her. It is not long, however, before Simon and the reader begin to see something attractive in the ‘‘brat’’ (p. 23). Initially it is her ‘‘forlorn, neglected air’’ but soon her quirky slang language becomes her hallmark. At first it is the odd word or phrase: ‘‘jellyboy’’ or ‘‘wotcher my cully.’’ But once she gets into her stride, Dido’s language increases in its use of original early nineteenth century slang, her variations upon it, and a totally made-up but authentic-sounding idiolect. Into the first category come words such as ‘‘havey-cavey,’’ ‘‘mint-sauce,’’ and ‘‘sapskull.’’ The second includes ‘‘betwaddled,’’ and ‘‘tipple-topped.’’ In the last come words for which I can find no dictionary meaning: ‘‘croopus!’’, ‘‘lobbed his groats’’ and ‘‘in the nitch.’’ Although Dido is not the sole user of dialect or slang, the originality of her speech is intrinsic to her character and helps endear her to the reader. Her language is evocative and does not necessitate a constant recourse to the dictionary: a meaning can always be derived from the context. What it evokes is the language of the time and it epitomises Dido Twite."
--Lathey, G. A havey-cavey business: language in historical fiction with particular reference to the novels of Joan Aiken and Leon Garfield in Historical Fiction for Children: Capturing the Past, F.M. Collins, and J. Graham, eds., London: David Fulton Publishers, 2001. (less)
While not quite as fully realized as his other book, Albion's Dream, this book begins with a great premise. A youngster slips into an alternate kind o...moreWhile not quite as fully realized as his other book, Albion's Dream, this book begins with a great premise. A youngster slips into an alternate kind of time where our world freezes in place, and trees become both sentient and mobile. And they have very strong personalities!(less)
I am amazed by much of what she does: strong-willed & smart young protagonists, dizzying plots, a delight in lang...moreI am on a major Joan Aiken kick.
I am amazed by much of what she does: strong-willed & smart young protagonists, dizzying plots, a delight in language including excellent cockney slang, a fine historical sense for detail, and the occasional odd metaphysical touch such as telepathy or Arthurian legends come to life. What a genius! I have enjoyed everything I've read by her, and am pleased she was so prolific because there's so much left to explore.
This book finds her in a more restrained Dickensian mode (no sea captains obsessed with pink whales). Young Lucas and Anna-Marie must fend for themselves in industrializing Blastburn, and Aiken's portrayal of the industrial revolution in England is spot-on. While the book succeeds as an adventure story, it would be particularly good for young readers working their way towards difficult questions about work, wealth, and "progress." (less)
"...(said the owl) "What's the good of snarling and showing your teeth? You ought to go out into the world and learn to behave better." The wolf thoug...more"...(said the owl) "What's the good of snarling and showing your teeth? You ought to go out into the world and learn to behave better." The wolf thought about what the owl had said and felt sad. "He is right," he decided. "I ought to go away." So he left the forest and moved into a cave a long way to the south to start a new way of life."
So begins one of my favorite childrens books. The story of the wolf's rehabilitation via right livelihood is delightful, and the illustrations by Jozef Wilkon are beautiful. An excellent book.(less)
A young adult novel with mythical themes. The main character finds an old family game, and begins to realize that it holds the power to alter reality....moreA young adult novel with mythical themes. The main character finds an old family game, and begins to realize that it holds the power to alter reality. It's a suspenseful, well-paced story.
My friend John pointed out one of the great things about this story. It has a good-vs-evil dynamic, but it remains rooted in a specific place (post-war Britain) and doesn't require a cosmic fate-of-the-universe scale to sustain its tension like so many others (Pullman, Tolkein). Well worth reading, and there are lots of cheap hardcover copies around on amazon.(less)
Our young orphan Krabat apprentices at a mill, which turns out to be a magic school far more sinister than Hogwarts.
Essentially a fairy tale, the story resonates on many levels. One of the things I love about it is the way Ottfried Preussler portrays the world of magic as having limits. The powerful and despotic master at the mill has his own master in turn...The logic of the story is carefully constructed, and every action and development has consequences.
Though it is a tersely entertaining story, lest anyone think of it as 'merely' young adult literature, it repays close reading. I am reminded of Chinua Achebe's excellent essay, 'Work and Play in Amos Tutuola's "Palm Wine Drinkard"' -the Satanic Mill would bear well the same kind of thoughtful analysis. There are delightfully subversive currents throughout, in its antimilitarist politics and caricatures of the powerful. The character of Big Hat in particular had me cheering.
If I could rate this book any higher, I would, it's one of my all-time favorites and I recommend it without reservation. Anthea Bell's translation is excellent, and it is a pleasure to read it aloud. (less)