Jenny is hosting Diana Wynne Jones week this week, and there’s already a lot of interesting posts about the awesomeness of DWJ and her books. I don’t particularly have anything to contribute in the book review vein, but I thought I’d write about how I came to find DWJ’s books in the first place, since Jenny asked about it anyway.
I first discovered DWJ in middle school, I think possibly 7th grade? I didn’t do it on my own– my 2nd-best friend (I know that sounds horrible, but she was #2 until #1 dumped me, and thenshe was #1 out of a lack of any other options), who was all into fantasy books and reading them even more than I was at the time, handed me her copy of the first volume of the Chrestomanci stories, which is two Chrestomanci books in one. “Read this,” she said. “I think you’ll like it.”
Now, this friend had been recommending me loads of books before she gave me that DWJ book, and to be honest they were mostly misses. She liked anthropomorphic animals, Tolkien, and ancient classic literature. I…didn’t. At least not the extent that she did! Every other book she had recommended was either boring or just not what I was into, and so I accepted this recommendation somewhat belligerently. I think I even planned to pretend to read it and then give it back to her saying it wasn’t for me, but for whatever reason– I can’t remember now, maybe I ran out of Little House books– I decided to actually give it a go. I started with Charmed Life.
Then I read The Lives of Christopher Chant, and then I read them both again, and then I gave it back to her and asked if she had any more DWJ books I could read RIGHT NOW. NOW. She didn’t have anything else, unfortunately, but I made up for it by borrowing the book again and refusing to talk about anything else besides CL and TLOCC for about a week straight. (Then she got annoyed and said I needed to talk about something else.) And so my obsession with DWJ began!
Charmed Life is still my favorite DWJ of all time, and I’m going to recommend it to you all to read first if you haven’t already read a DWJ book. Some people will say Archer’s Goon is a better DWJ intro, or Fire and Hemlock, or even Cart and Cwidder, and those are all fine books and really fun ones besides. But to me, Charmed Life has all the best qualities of a DWJ story: plucky children, magic, adventure, personal growth by the protagonist, kind adults (that aren’t parents of the protagonist, because most of DWJ’s parents are distant is not outright mean. But the other adults are fine!), a subtle sort of humor, and most of all it’s just fun.
Thanks to Jenny for hosting Diana Wynne Jones week! If you’d like to participate yourself, go check out her blog for more details about what’s going on this week.