First up, my bookgroup kids gave it an unanimous 10 out of 10 - they loved it, and it made a great discussion book. What they really loved was the conFirst up, my bookgroup kids gave it an unanimous 10 out of 10 - they loved it, and it made a great discussion book. What they really loved was the concept - the magical, artistic world, fighting with origami dragons and paperclips and paint. I'll admit that I read for character and writing style more than I read for plot, and those were the places where the book fell flat. The plot isn't original, but the pace is quick and the story probably feels original to the intended audience. I got tripped up by the sentence level writing - tons of telling, very little showing, very superficial character development. While the magic was fun and imaginative, it didn't feel grounded - there was no real system of rules for how it worked and it didn't feel fully realized. All that said, I'd recommend it to kids looking for dystopian stories or other magical adventures, but not to adults who love great kids' books....more
Meh. A bit like Percy Jackson minus the humor. The action and plot are all spot-on for kids who enjoy stories of mythology in our own world - the godsMeh. A bit like Percy Jackson minus the humor. The action and plot are all spot-on for kids who enjoy stories of mythology in our own world - the gods come to earth - but the book takes itself too seriously for my taste, and the dialogue is often stilted or unnecessarily repetitive. Characters stop in the middle of frantic escapes to argue things or remind each other of key plot points. These are all things that don't matter to a lot of kid readers (this was recommended to the bookgroup by one of the regulars) and the character of Pegasus would be an added draw for kids who enjoy animal stories AND mythology (I'm not an animal story fan in general). I'll still hand it to kids looking for more books with mythology, but I didn't personally enjoy it....more
I found this easier going on audio (the narrator helped) than I did several years ago when I tried it in print. I still think it's bloated, and the maI found this easier going on audio (the narrator helped) than I did several years ago when I tried it in print. I still think it's bloated, and the main character is underdeveloped in addition to not being believable as a young teen. The focus is definitely on plot - lots of adventures strung together into a story with an anticlimactic ending....more
In terms of the fantasy world, this reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - only this was more like what I wanted from that book but neverIn terms of the fantasy world, this reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - only this was more like what I wanted from that book but never got. I enjoyed the mix of historical feel, faeries, and a bit of steampunk. I didn't know how it all worked, but it felt compelling nonetheless. My only quibble might be that I feel like I know more about Mr. Jelliby as a character than I do about Bartholomew. Mr. Jelliby took a more active role in the story and was more interesting to me. I'm not sure if child readers would care about that at all. The world of the story is a bit dense, which might put off more casual readers of fantasy, but I think that would make the book more appealing to young readers who enjoy vivid settings. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but mostly because I've been in an anti-sequel mood. I did like the lack of a neat resolution, though - points for not taking the easy way out and wrapping it all up in a bow....more
What is there to say about Sophie and Howl and Calcifer? What is there to say about Diana Wynne Jones, except that she had some spark of genius, someWhat is there to say about Sophie and Howl and Calcifer? What is there to say about Diana Wynne Jones, except that she had some spark of genius, some way of writing books that don't feel like they could have been written by anyone else? Books, and characters, and marvelous little bits and pieces - objects and places that are infused with the best kind of magic.
Before this, I'd only read Fire and Hemlock, which is completely unlike this book in some ways, but also clearly from the same pen. Somehow, that book convinced me that I would enjoy anything she'd written, but for whatever reason I didn't rush out to read them, knowing I had a nice large body of work waiting for me.
My kids' bookgroup chose this as their April selection, based on the recommendation of one girl who's recently become a DWJ convert. I owe her a debt of gratitude, because it jump-started me.
Sophie had me hooked from the beginning - she believes herself to be completely subject to fairy tale conventions, based on her birth order. As the oldest of three girls, she's bound to fail at any quest or pursuit, and it's best for her to just stay home and work at the hat shop and leave it to her youngest sister to successfully make her way in the world. Of course, that's not how it goes at all, and Sophie turns out to be possessed of a marvelous kind of magic, the kind where she can persuade or harass others (people and things) into doing as she asks. I do love a good stubborn heroine.
Added to the cast of fabulous characters (hilariously vain Howl, grouchy Calcifer) is the moving castle itself. I suppose you can't quite separate Calcifer from the castle, but it does feel like a another character, and its ability to be in four places at once is the kind of thing I love in fantasy novels. In fact, Jones manages a perfect balance between seriousness and humor in the whole book - I cared deeply about the characters at the same time that I was laughing and enjoying the ride.
This was an intriguing retelling of the Pied Piper story, with a likeable narrator, but the gaps in the fantasy logic lost it points. The awesome ropeThis was an intriguing retelling of the Pied Piper story, with a likeable narrator, but the gaps in the fantasy logic lost it points. The awesome rope-skipping dragon won it back a few, though....more