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Aunt Maria School & Library Binding – September 1, 2003

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School & Library Binding, September 1, 2003
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Michael Vey 4
Featured New Release in Teen Science Fiction & Fantasy

Product Details

  • School & Library Binding
  • Publisher: Topeka Bindery (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0613684036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0613684033
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,074,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After their father disappears, Mig and her brother, Chris, go with their mother to visit Aunt Maria, an elderly tyrant who is as demure as she is iron-willed. Upon arriving, Mig and her mother discover that they are expected to keep house for Aunt Maria, as well as provide freshly baked cakes for her daily tea parties. These unwelcome chores do not prevent Mig from noticing that there's something very strange going on in sleepy Cranbury-on-Sea. Aunt Maria and her cronies are the only residents with any will of their own--their husbands and sons are zombie-like, and all the children are locked away in a huge orphanage on the outskirts of town. When Chris is transformed into a wolf, Mig must rescue him by unraveling the twisted secret that guides the lives of the villagers. Wry observations about the oddities of family life, along with plenty of spine-tingling spookiness, will keep readers glued to every turn of the labyrinthine plot. In the tradition of her novels The Ogre Downstairs and Eight Days of Luke , Jones takes the ordinary world and steeps it in an intoxicating witch's brew. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-9 --Something's definitely amiss in Cranbury-on-Sea. That's the conclusion Mig Laker and her older brother Chris reach almost immediately upon arriving to spend their Easter holidays with their Great-Aunt Maria . The men of this scenic resort village are all "gray-suited zombies," the children are passive orphans, and a core group of women, whom the Lakers nickname the Mrs. Urs, keep a sharp eye on things and report back to their aunt. Maria, a seemingly helpless elderly woman, holds court at daily tea; as it turns out, she runs the town and manipulates individuals and events through guilt, suggestion, and--if all else fails--intimidation. She's even occasionally forced to change uncooperative souls into cats, wolves, and other creatures. The narrative is comprised of Mig's account of the rather amazing goings-on in her journal, and expertly treads the fine line between the factual and the fantastic. Jones offers "possible" explanations for most occurrences; readers will question, just as Mig does, whether such events can really have happened or if they were simply imagined. The qualities of love and trust do prevail, and Mig's fondness for happy endings is realized. The intricate, multifaceted plot and rich cast of characters are deftly handled by this master storyteller. She spins an unusual yarn that is at once supernatural and realistic, humorous and horrifying, mysterious and enlightening.
- Luann Toth, School Library Journal
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards--and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter--her books were filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy. From the very beginning, Diana Wynne Jones's books garnered literary accolades: her novel Dogsbody was a runner-up for the 1975 Carnegie Medal, and Charmed Life won the esteemed Guardian children's fiction prize in 1977. Since then, in addition to being translated into more than twenty languages, her books have earned a wide array of honors--including two Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors--and appeared on countless best-of-the-year lists. Her work also found commercial success: in 1992 the BBC adapted her novel Archer's Goon into a six-part miniseries, and her best-selling Howl's Moving Castle was made into an animated film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki in 2004. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, and became one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The author herself has also been honored with many prestigious awards for the body of her work. She was given the British Fantasy Society's Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999 for having made a significant impact on fantasy, received a D.Lit from Bristol University in 2006, and won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention in 2007.

Born just outside London in 1934, Diana Wynne Jones had a childhood that was "very vivid and often very distressing"--one that became the fertile ground where her tremendous imagination took root. When the raids of World War II reached London in 1939, the five-year-old girl and her two younger sisters were torn from their suburban life and sent to Wales to live with their grandparents. This was to be the first of many migrations, one of which brought her family to Lane Head, a large manor in the author-populated Lake District and former residence of John Ruskin's secretary, W.G. Collingwood. This time marked an important moment in Diana Wynne Jones's life, where her writing ambitions were magnified by, in her own words, "early marginal contacts with the Great." She confesses to having "offending Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat," erasing a stack of drawings by the late Ruskin himself in order to reuse the paper, and causing Beatrix Potter (who also lived nearby) to complain about her and her sister's behavior. "It struck me," Jones said, "that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant, and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness." Prompted by her penny-pinching father's refusal to buy the children any books, Diana Wynne Jones wrote her first novel at age twelve and entertained her sisters with readings of her stories. Those early stories--and much of her future work--were inspired by a limited but crucial foundation of classics: Malory's Morte D'Arthur, The Arabian Nights, and Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages. Fantasy was Jones's passion from the start, despite receiving little support from her often neglectful parents. This passion was fueled further during her tenure at St. Anne's College in Oxford, where lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis increased her fascination with myth and legend. She married Medievalist John Burrow in 1956; the couple have three sons and six grandchildren.

After a decade of rejections, Diana Wynne Jones's first novel, Changeover, was published in 1970. In 1973, she joined forces with her lifelong literary agent, Laura Cecil, and in the four decades to follow, Diana Wynne Jones wrote prodigiously, sometimes completing three titles in a single year. Along the way she gained a fiercely loyal following; many of her admirers became successful authors themselves, including Newbery Award winners Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, and Newbery Honor Book author Megan Whalen Turner. A conference dedicated solely to her work was held at the University of West England, Bristol, in 2009. Diana Wynne Jones continued to write during her battle with lung cancer, which ultimately took her life in March 2011. Her last book, Earwig and the Witch, will be published by Greenwillow Books in 2012.

Customer Reviews

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I love gray areas!
For such a slim volume it is jam-packed full of interesting ideas, plot revelations and clever ideas.
R. M. Fisher
Read Diana Wynne Jones to learn what REAL magic is all about.
A Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jane Lebak on April 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to admit, the ending ruined the entire book for me. I love Diana Wynne Jones' books. I've read everything I could get my hands on. The beginning and middle of this book really had my heart--a real page-turner. The characters' plight is gripping, and Aunt Maria is the most hateful villain I've had the pleasure of reading. The main characters are very self-determined when they get motivated. When the mother stops remembering her own son, my heart was broken. But the ending felt horribly rushed, and what happens to Aunt Maria doesn't really resolve anything.
I wanted to like this book more. I would recommend this to any Diana Wynne Jones fan, but if this is your first time reading such a splendid writer, you'd be better off sampling some of her best books first and returning to Aunt Maria later. I'd recommend Archer's Goon, Howl's Moving Castle, Dark Lord of Derkholm, any of the Chrestomanci novels, or Hexood instead. By all means dive into this prolific and imagintive author! But try her other works first.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Diana Wynne Jones once again combines eccentric characters, moral ambiguity, magic, time travelling, shapeshifting and an uncanny ability to portray human behaviour in one of her best books: "Aunt Maria". With all the twists and turns that we expect from Wynne Jones, "Aunt Maria" is one of the most re-readable and enjoyable books in her vast collection.

After the accidental death of their father, Naomi "Mig" and Chris Laker are reluctantly taken to Cranbury-on-Sea by their mother to visit Aunt Maria. Maria appears to be a cuddly old lady (though is constantly ringing up and meddling in their lives), but once they get to their house the siblings find that she is much worse. Behind her compliments and manners is an old lady determined to get her own way - for instance, when she says "I won't bother with breakfast, now Lavinia's not here to bring it to me in bed," she means: "I demand breakfast in bed."

Cranbury itself is just as bad: the women flock around Maria in daily tea-parties like she's their Queen-bee, whilst the men work like zombies and the clone-like children spend their days in an orphanage. Enigmas pile up on all sides: who is the ghost haunting Chris's room? What happened to the previous maid Lavinia? Why does Maria despise the elderly Phelp neighbours? What is contained within the beautiful green box Mig finds? And could it be possible that the children's father actually reached Cranbury on the day he supposedly died?

All the answers to these mysteries are brought together beautifully as the book progresses - but not before Mig must deal with the battle of the sexes in the town, the fact that her brother has been turned into a wolf, the mind-manipulation being dealt upon her mother, and Maria's own sinister designs for her!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By UglyOldWitch on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is my first Wynne Jones book. I'm addicted! I have to say, it was scary - Aunt Maria and her cronies have power and use it to control others - manipulating lives, turning children into wolves, burying people alive. It's the stuff my childhood nightmares were made of.

Still, I couldn't put it down. I love her writing style, the symbolism involved (keeping adults entertained), and her blending of right and wrong - leaving us questioning. (I love gray areas!) Many of us are aware of our society being unbalanced now, and this book portrays a community that is tipped in the other direction.

From a parental point of view, Mig (the heroine) is a strong female character, the sibling relationship is honestly portrayed and healthy, and I like a book that makes kids question the world around them. (even the adults) I'm off to find more of Wynne Jones' books!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Everyone has one -- an older relative who disapproves of you unless you do what she wishes, and isn't nearly as nice as she pretends to be.

But "Aunt Maria" turns out to be even worse than your average relative, in this engaging, humourous and chilling fantasy novel. Diana Wynne-Jones spins a fantastical story of witchcraft and revenge, all centering on the elderly lady who sweetly lords it over Cranbury-on-Sea.

After her father is apparently killed in a car accident, Mig and her family go to stay with Aunt Maria, mainly because her mother feels guilty. Aunt Maria is very prim and very sweet, and makes a point of guilting people into doing what she wants. Life revolves around Aunt Maria's tea parties, and the men and children act like automatons.

Mig and her brother Chris hate it there, despite the sad ghost who appears in Chris's room. But they start to suspect that magic may be at work, and that Aunt Maria may be at the center of it. When Chris annoys her, she transforms him into a wolf. Now Mig must uncover a magical plot that stretches back over the decades -- and is the key to dethroning Aunt Maria.

It's hard enough to deal with such elderly, sickly-sweet relatives if they are normal. Imagine if they are cold-hearted witches, who turn their own daughters into wolves. And if Diana Wynne-Jones was trying to make people feel lucky for not having an Aunt Maria, then she succeeds beautifully.

Jones paints a chilling picture of Cranbury -- sort of a "Stepford Wives" situation, except it's Stepford Husbands and Kids, all slaves to the stifling sweetness of Aunt Maria. The one weak spot is the ending -- it's not a terribly bad ending, but it is kind of weak, especially compared to the quiet menace of the past several chapters.
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