Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Castle #1
ISBN: 006441034X
Publisher: Eos
Pub. Date: 1986
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Children/Fantasy/Magic
Pages: 329
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads:  In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.  After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.  The Hatter sisters–Sophie, Lettie, and Martha–and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.  In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?  Diana Wynne Jones’s entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.

My Reveries and Ramblings: I first heard of Howl’s Moving Castle when I saw the trailer for the movie.  Of course, me being a child at heart, I went out and got the movie.  What a wonderful and beautiful adventure!  So when I found out it was based on a book, I had to read it.  I don’t regret it at all.  The film has several plot differences from the book.  But the basic plot is still the same.  Howl’s Moving Castle is about a girl, Sophie, who gets cursed by The Witch of the Waste.  The curse turns her into an old woman.  Refusing to let her family see her as old and ugly she runs away hoping to find her fortune and maybe even break the curse.  While traveling she sees Howl’s moving castle.  Everyone knows that Howl eats the hearts of young beautiful girls.  But Sophie isn’t worried because she is old woman now.  So she lets herself in the castle.  She ends up working as Howl’s cleaning lady after making a deal with the fire demon, Calcifer, that powers the castle.  Calcifer wants Sophie to help him break the contract he made with Howl in return he will break the curse on Sophie.  However, Calcifer cannot discuss the terms of the contract so he has to drop Sophie hints, which she never catches.  Likewise, the Witch of the Waste made it impossible for Sophie to tell anyone that she is under a curse.  Howl doesn’t seem to care for Sophie and her cleaning but he puts up with her, letting her live in the castle.  Howl and his apprentice, Michael, make simple spells and charms for people of several towns.  They are always in the moving castle but the door to the outside is like a portal allowing them access to several places.  Howl is being pursued by the King to find his brother as well as the Wizard Suliman who disappeared.  Howl doesn’t want responsibility or commitment, therefore he tries his best to sully his name/reputation in town and with the king.    However, with the Witch of the Waste wanting him for her own, Howl is constantly on the run, dragging Sophie, Michael and Calcifer with him.

I adored this book.  I loved the movie and was so happy to find the book a bit different.  It was so much fun to read!  It was like going on an adventure.  At the beginning of the story, Sophie is working as an apprentice in her family’s hat shop.  She has no backbone and is overly shy and quiet, spending more time talking to the hats she makes then to people.  One day the Witch of the Waste comes into the store and curses her, making her into an old woman.  As the story progresses, Sophie’s personality matures and changes, she becomes more aggressive.  Instead of feeling that her fate has been decided for her she goes out and makes it how she wants.
Howl hates being tied down to one place.  His character was so interesting.  He is a natural coward, yet brave when he has to be.    He is also such a drama king!  He’s like a spoiled kid obsessed with vanity.  It made for some very hilarious situations.  Throughout the book he is constantly nagging at Sophie and blaming her for everything bad that happens. Howl hates Sophie cleaning and messing up all his stuff-but he never kicks her out.  Underneath the surface he is kind and compassionate-very deep under the surface.  These two traits come out very rarely and only for an instant at a time.  He is always begging for attention.  It’s quite funny.  One of the funniest scenes was when Howl got a cold. I reread it several times and laughed out loud each and every time.  Calcifer was awesome.  He is a fire demon who made a contract with Howl and because of that is stuck inside the castle until the contract is broken.  He is so funny.  I would love to have a friend like Calcifer, even if he is a bit scary looking.
The whole book was beautifully written.  The world was interesting.  It takes place in Ingary, which is like another dimension, where magic exists.  The ending is suspenseful and sweet.  There is no cliffhanger.  It has a HEA ending but I would still love to see more of Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer.  Hopefully they show up in the next books.  Without trying to give anything away I will say that there is a little bit of romance, very little.  It is sweet and very PG.  The other stuff, not so much.  I wish there was more romance BUT, it is still worth it!  I loved every minute of it!  I wish I could read it again.  Actually I’d recommend reading it twice so that once you discovered everything by the end you can go back and see the reasons behind certain things, and pick up on Calcifer’s hints-which even I had some trouble picking up.  Overall, it was a VERY unique and imaginative book.  It was charming and engrossing.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

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*Plus, Long Live by Taylor Swift

Book Review: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
ISBN: 9780374480097
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pub. Date:  1975
Source: Library
Genre: Children/Supernatural/Victorian/Fantasy
Pages: 139
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  Imagine coming upon a fountain of youth in a forest. To live forever–isn’t that everyone’s ideal? For the Tuck family, eternal life is a reality, but their reaction to their fate is surprising. Award winner Natalie Babbitt (Knee-Knock Rise, The Search for Delicious) outdoes herself in this sensitive, moving adventure in which 10-year-old Winnie Foster is kidnapped, finds herself helping a murderer out of jail, and is eventually offered the ultimate gift–but doesn’t know whether to accept it. Babbitt asks profound questions about the meaning of life and death, and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation for the perfect cycle of nature. Intense and powerful, exciting and poignant, Tuck Everlasting will last forever–in the reader’s imagination. An ALA Notable Book. (Ages 9 to 12) –Emilie Coulter

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Ooooooo this was such a cute book!  Underneath the innocence and beauty of the story, there was a much heavier undertone.  The story is about the Tuck family. Eighty-something years before the events of the book, they drank from a fountain in the woods.  When they never grew old, or died of injury or disease, they realized it was the water.  At first they were happy and went out and did whatever they wanted, but over time they realized it was more of a curse than a blessing.  Everyone around them grows old and dies and then new people come into the world.  The Tucks will forever be the same.  The two sons of the family, Jesse and Miles, can never have families because of it.  It is so sad.  Winnie Foster, the 10 yr. old daughter of the owner of the woods that the Tuck family lives in, decides to runaway one day.   While walking in the woods she sees Jesse drinking from a fountain at the base of a tree.  After talking for a bit, Winnie is brought to the Tuck’s house.  At first she doesn’t believe that they can live forever and just wants to go home, but she grows to love the family, especially Jesse, and wants to protect their secret.  In town, there is a man in a yellow suit whose heard of the Tuck family and wants to find the fountain of youth by taking advantage of Winnie’s “kidnapping.”
This was such a beautiful story.  Unlike most people, I had never read this book when I was younger.  In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever read it.  I was astounded by how much I enjoyed it.  Even though Tuck Everlasting is a children’s book and for the most part written through Winnie’s 3rd person POV, it can be enjoyed by adults, maybe even on a deeper level.  Winnie’s POV added an innocence to the writing.  As an adult I could see past the innocence right to the seriousness of the situation.  The Tuck’s want to die, or at least grow old and then die.  They would do anything to be normal again.  But they can’t and they force Winnie to realize that without death, there is no life.
“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thush, too.  And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. Thats the way it’s suppose to be. That’s the way it is.  If we didn’t move it out ourself, it would stay here forever, trying to get loose, but stuck.  That’s what us Tucks are, Winnie.  We ain’t part of the wheel anymore.”
“You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.”
I just adored this book.  Babbitt wrote with an illustrative style.  Her word choice and descriptions brought the woods to life.  It was all so vivid in my mind-the world was so lovely and charming.  In 2002, Disney made a movie of the book.  Even though the film is slightly different from the book (Winnie being 15 instead of 10-makes for a good romance-and a few other smaller differences) it captures the spirit of the book, making it a fantastic film.  If you’ve never read Tuck Everlasting, I recommend you do- no matter how old you are, you will love the Tuck family just like Winnie did.

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Tuck Everlasting
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