Sunday, August 1, 2010

Diana Wynne Jones Week Begins with a First

Jenny of Jenny's Books, in all of her infinite wisdom, has made this first week of August Diana Wynne Jones Week!  Now, for almost anyone who has read DWJ (as her fans like to abbreviate it), it doesn't take a special occasion to get us to pick up one of her many, many books.  But it's still fun to celebrate a wonderful and prolific author!  I'm going to spend this week talking about some new-to-me books and celebrating some of my favorites.

One of the books that I hadn't read yet was DWJ's first book from 1973, Wilkins' Tooth or Witch's Business.  This is a short one and one of the younger titles I've read.  It had a great premise and was just a little lacking in polish.

Jess and Frank have broken a chair and will not be getting their pocket money for the entire summer.  They refuse to accept this (and Frank owes the local bully ten pence) so they start looking for some way to make some money on their own.  They come up with a business idea -- getting revenge on behalf of others.  They put a sign up on the back of the shed and wait, only to be approached by Buster the bully.  Their act of "own back" (revenge) on his behalf starts a chain of events that gets them on the wrong side of the local witch.  Eventually, they are tasked with retrieving stolen jewels, fixing a limp and curing a tooth ache.  If only they hadn't started Own Back, Ltd.!

The biggest problem I had with this book was that the main characters are called Jess and Frank and some of their main clients are called Jenny and Frankie.  I kept getting confused as to who was talking because of the similar names and pairing!  Also, there was quite a bit of 1970s British slang that tripped me up a bit -- though most of it I was able to figure out based on context.  The plot, on the other hand, was fun and as complex as you could hope for in such a short children's book.  It definitely shows that spark that is intensified in later Diana Wynne Jones books.  I wouldn't choose this as a first venture into her books but it's definitely one for established fans.

Avoiding acts that seem good but are really bad,

Support our site and buy Witch's Business or find it at your local library.  We borrowed a copy from the library.


  1. My favourite DWJ book is Tales of Time City. I love it - have you read it?

  2. Oh dear, I fear that reading DWJ Week posts is going to ruin my recent resolve to check out fewer library books/focus on the books on my shelves for a while! I hadn't heard of this one but it sounds fun - so I've just put a hold on it. Ah well - the problem of "too many books" is a good problem to have.

  3. I like this "infinite wisdom" remark. :p I get Witch's Business mixed up with Wild Robert, and I keep on not buying it when I see it, because I know I already own Wild Robert. It's a sweet little book, but I agree, not necessarily one of her very best.

  4. Becky - I just read it last week. I think my review of it will go up on Wednesday! Very good one!

    Heather - The nice thing about getting books like this from the library is that they are quick reads so the pile disappears again in a short time. :)

    Jenny - Hey, you deserve it! This was a great idea! And I borrowed this one from the library but will pick up a used copy if I find one.