The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne JonesThe Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones
Published: Greenwillow Books (1974), Paperback, 224pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction

Chemical Warfare? Casper, Johnny, and Gwinny are sure they'll never be happy again when their mother marries Jack, who is as mean as an ogre. To make matters worse, two obnoxious stepbrothers, Malcolm and Douglas, move in as well. No one -- except the parents -- seems happy. But when Jack gives a chemistry set to each group of kids, bigger problems take over. These are, it turns out, not your average chemicals. In one hilarious experiment after another, the kids discover they can fly, switch bodies with one another, and even disappear. If only they could figure out how to "undo" all of this Are one combustible stepfamily and two explosive chemistry sets a formula for disaster? (from Goodreads)

I’ve had this for a few years but I completely forgot to read it! My only excuse is that it’s tiny and somewhat easy to skip over; luckily once I read this interview I remembered I had it and could read it right away.1

Things in this book! Parents not understanding kids, kids not understanding parents, hints of parental neglect/abuse (but in a 1970s way which mostly means intimidation, ignoring the ones you don’t like and occasionally slapping the ones you do), blended families and how not to do them, magic through the power of SCIENCE!, kid antics, discotheques.

Best thing: everyone learning (slowly) how to be a family, mostly through the accidental application of empathy.

Worst thing: mean parent being excused (kind of) for being mean by the revelation that his sense of humor isn’t aligned with anyone else’s. I don’t agree with the assessment, but whatever, it’s not my book.

I’ve always liked how DWJ blends real-life drama with the fantastic, and I particularly like it in The Ogre Downstairs. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s a little bit scary at times, and I think it’s definitely worth reading if you’re a DWJ fan.

Read: June 22-23, 2013


  1. the interviewer makes really awesome zines, btw. I don’t have her DWJ one, but I do have a few other issues and they’re great! Her shop seems to be down right now, but definitely check it out whenever it’s back up!

3 thoughts on “The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones”

    1. Ha! I was actually pretty shocked by that. She TRIED TO KILL HIM omg that’s kinda terrible? At least she realized it was terrible before it was too late. Eek!

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