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Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories Hardcover – May 11, 2004

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1St Edition edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060555335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060555337
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,132,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up–This collection of 15 short stories and one novella begins with the autobiographical "The Girl Jones," about nine-year-old Diana. Among the selections that follow, readers will find stories about a science-fiction writer who becomes involved in an interstellar revolution, a haunting encounter with werewolves and a sinister fool, and a talking cat cursed with long life. In the concluding novella, four children become embroiled in intrigue over an innocent prince, an evil count, and a brave outlaw. All of the selections have characters that are both appealing and realistically flawed, and the worlds they inhabit are brought to life through detail and humor. Each story smoothly draws readers in and brings its own mood and adventure. This is a good choice for collections in which the author has a following, though the lack of "Chrestomanci" stories and the somewhat daunting size may put off readers. The hefty volume includes most of the selections from Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories (1985; o.p.) and Believing Is Seeing: Seven Stories (1999). However, the lack of overlap with Stopping for a Spell (2004) and Mixed Magics (2001, all Greenwillow), along with the new tales included, makes this a solid addition.–Beth L. Meister, Yeshiva of Central Queens, Flushing, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-10. Sixteen tales of mystery and magic from Jones, three of them never before published in the U.S. Of those previously published here, five come from Believing Is Seeing (1990) and seven from Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories (1984). Even libraries that own those volumes should consider purchasing this because it concludes with the novella "Everard's Ride." Difficult to find, this excellent romantic adventure is worth the price of the book, particularly where Jones has a strong following. In this story, young people set out for a nearby island only to find themselves in another time, when treachery threatens a legendary realm. In "Enna Hittims," a child with the mumps is initially entertained, then alarmed, as the tiny characters she invented blaze a path of destruction through her home. "Little Dot" is narrated by a cat, who saves her wizard from an ill-advised love affair and defeats the riddling Beast of Ettmoor. A flavorful anthology. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Carnevale on June 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was very pleased when Unexpected Magic finally came out into paperbook. Diana Wynne Jones, most have to admit, is quite an inventive author and I was looking forward to her short stories. It's not that I was disappointed with the novel itself, but rather, nothing that was in this book was new. All these short stories have been published at one time or another, but then, perhaps some of them are difficult to find in circulation today, I don't know.

I thought I would give a brief summary of each of the short stories just in case you wanted to know what they were about. Next to the titles of the stories I will but the other books they can be found in.

The Girl Jones (found in Sisters)

When a girl is stuck with over ten little children to take care of she is only at a momentary loss at what to do. She takes them down a street that leads to a river where they all splash around naked. A well-written story of an early girl's awakening into foreshadowed adolescence, nothing graphic.

Nad and Dan adn Quaffy (Believing is Seeing)

When a mother acquires a word processor to replace the typewriter her son breaks she finds herself a successful writer of Science Fiction. As she works on her latest novel, she finds herself tlaking to a man who lives in the sort of world that can be found in her books. The man is tryingto overthrow a matriarchy and needs her help. An interesting perspective into the pschological aspects of a mother/son relationship, gender issues, and a writer's process.

The Plague of Peacocks (Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories)

Residents of the town of Chipping Hanbury wish the interfering Platts would get out of town. The residents know there is only one boy to do it-Daniel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Johnston VINE VOICE on May 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This collection brings together fifteen stories and a novella, "Everard's Ride". Spanning genres from science fiction to fantasy and even a touch of horror (in "The Master"), all of the stories show off Jones' wit and wild imagination, qualities which make her one of the best young adult fantasy writers of today (perhaps one of the best fantasy writers of today, period). I was disappointed, though, that so many of the stories had been in previous collections - surely there were more to choose from?
Among the stories, the standouts are: "Enna Hittims", in which a girl who has the mumps draws stories about a fictional hero, who becomes frighteningly real; "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight", set on a world in which dragons are real and telepathy is illegal; "The Girl Who Loved the Sun", the myth-like tale of a girl who longs to become a tree; "Nad and Dan adn Quaffy", a witty story of a typo-prone science fiction writer whose computer suddenly starts talking to her; and "What the Cat Told Me" and "Little Dot", both tales of magic narrated by cats.
Since I already own and had read most of the stories, I was most looking forward to reading "Everard's Ride" and wasn't disappointed. Alex and Cecilia live in Victorian England, the children of a wealthy farmer; there is a mysterious island near their home, said to be the site of a ghostly kingdom called Falleyfell. When an enigmatic stranger comes to the farmhouse one night, Alex and Cecilia begin an adventure which leads them into Falleyfell and the dangerous intrigues of its court. Not as inventive as Jones' best novels, (...)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prolific fantasy writer Diana Wynne-Jones is one of the few authors who can write short stories and novels equally well. And in "Unexpected Magic," Jones shows her flair for shorter works, with several previously published stories paired with a wonderful new novella.

Jones presents us with plenty of stories, mostly fantasy but some that border on SF or horror. A kindly wizard falls for a sniping, obnoxious woman -- and his cats discover her horrible identity. Mum's obsession with her latest whims and fads leads to a plague of fuzzy pink mushrooms -- not to mention a minor family rebellion. A girl falls in love with the sun, and turns into a tree so that it will love her back.

Elizabeth develops a friendship with her father's living walking stick, Carruthers. A robot called No One has difficulties following orders, especially with a house full of finicky appliances. Siglin is pursued by a witch-hunt for telepaths, on an alternative world where women rule. And a Boy and an undying cat set out to destroy an evil wizard.

And finishing it up is the solid novella "Everard's Ride." Cecilia and Alex are a pair of Victorian kids, who have an unexpected visitor when a richly-dressed outlaw arrives on their doorstep in the rain. But as they venture into another world that borders on ours, they find that not everyone is as benevolent as Lord Robert.

Those who have collected Jones' short story collections will probably already have several stories from this book. but "Unexpected Magic" is made worth the while by "Everard's Ride," a sprawling 200-page novella that could easily have been published on its own. It's not Jones' best work, but it is an entrancing and original fantasy tale.
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