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Earwig and the Witch Hardcover – January 31, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Only in an unorthodox children’s book does a girl hope that she won’t be chosen by a family and taken away from the orphanage. But then, Earwig isn’t your typical orphan. Although she was never told that her mother was a witch, this resolute, resourceful child does seem to have a mysterious ability to get her own way. Even when cruel Bella Yaga chooses the girl and takes her away to live as her servant, Earwig quickly picks up enough magic to turn the tables on the old witch. Written for a younger audience than most of the magical novels by the late Jones, this early chapter book offers an amusing story in which it takes hard work as well as magic and cleverness to bring about a happy ending. Zelinsky’s expressive drawings, some not seen in final form, perfectly capture the offbeat characters and the droll tone of the text. A refreshing change of pace for young fantasy fans. Grades 2-4. --Carolyn Phelan


“This funny story updates fairy tale conventions while highlighting Jones’s subversive wit and her firm belief that children can control their own lives. … A fine introduction to the late author’s more complex YA novels.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Earwig is a plucky, bossy heroine, and the story is packed with with and humor. Zelinsky’s illustrations enhance this imaginative tale.” (School Library Journal)

“Readers are treated to a nonstop plot, memorable characters, and signature DWJ touches … An accessible page design incorporates Zelinsky’s plentiful line illustrations, the best of which are showstoppers.” (The Horn Book)

“A refreshing change of pace for young fantasy fans.” (Booklist)

“Jones brings her characteristic witty humor and rich imagination to a whimsical chapter book that would undoubtedly delight as a readaloud. Stubborn and mischievous, Earwig is a likable, albeit irascible, heroine, and her triumph at the witch’s expense will elicit plenty of cheerful howls.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“With this enthralling book, Jones proves that she is still at the top of her game.” (Booklist (starred review))

“[A] joyfully chaotic tale.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062075116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062075116
  • ASIN: 006207511X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Let's pause and bow our heads for a moment. Last year, we lost one of the greatest fantasy authors, Diana Wynne-Jones.

Before she passed away, Jones wrote one last book containing the usual things you would expect: an irrepressible orphan, a witch, spells, a cat, and lots of magical forces. But sadly, "Earwig and the Witch" is not really up to Jones' usual brilliance -- it's a fun book, but it feels like an unfinished draft that ends abruptly, without dealing with all the plot threads.

Earwig (aka Erica Wigg) has spent her whole life in an orphanage, and has no desire to be adopted by anybody. But despite her best efforts, she IS adopted by a mysterious pair -- a witch named Bella Yaga (also a nickname for Bella Swan), and a mysterious horned man called the Mandrake. Bella Yaga only adopted Earwig so she would have unpaid labor.

Soon Earwig decides to make the best of her situation, and learn some of the many strange spells that Bella Yaga is working on. She also has an unexpected new ally: the witch's talking cat, Thomas. With his help, she might be able to master enough magic to make Bella Yaga regret ever treating her like a slave...

"Earwig and the Witch" has that distinct Diana Wynne Jones charm -- talking cats, magic books, suburban witches, overwhelming Britishness and a wicked sense of humor. It also has a bittersweet tang, since this is the last Diana Wynne Jones fantasy novel we'll get (unless they find some hidden manuscripts somewhere).

Earwig is a delightful heroine -- strong-willed, feisty and willing to bide her time so she can mess around with the annoying witch who dragged her away from her old home. It's hinted that there's more to Earwig than meets the eye, but it's never developed.
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Format: Hardcover
Did you watch the movie, Howl's Moving Castle? It was based, of course, on a book by British fantasy writer extraordinaire, Diana Wynne Jones. To the sorrow of many reader fans, Ms. Jones passed away in 2011 after losing her fight with cancer. Earwig and the Witch is, as far as I know, her last book.

Earwig and the Witch is a slim read for younger middle grade readers, but it packs a lot into a few short pages. In fact, I'm guessing you will find yourself wishing for a sequel once you hit the last page. In her signature style, Jones pops magic into a rather ordinary contemporary world. Meet Earwig, a girl who was left at the orphanage as a baby with the following note: "Got the other twelve witches all chasing me. I'll be back for her when I've shook them off. It may take years. Her name is Earwig." The Matron promptly changes the baby's name to Erica, but it turns back to Earwig easily enough.

Earwig's best friend is a timid boy named Custard. Earwig does not want to be adopted, considering she has the whole orphanage running just how she likes it. So she is not pleased when she IS adopted--by a towering man with horns only she can see and a woman with a "raggety, ribby look to her face."

Sure enough, the man is something rather terrifying and the woman is a witch looking for cheap labor. But Earwig managed things nicely in her last home, and now she sets out to get her way in this uncanny new place. It helps that she has an ally. (A close read will reveal glimpses of the Baba Yaga story in the bones of this one.)

The book includes pen-and-ink illustrations by Caldecott winner Paul O. Zelinsky. They are a bit twisty and often show Earwig scowling, but then, she is a witch girl.
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Format: Hardcover
Earwig is used to getting her own way. An orphan left on the doorstep of St. Morwald's Home for Children, Earwig knows how to make others do her bidding. At her request the cook prepares her favorite lunch of shepherd's pie, the matron hurries to keep her supplied in red sweaters, and her fellow orphans indulge her in dimly-lit games of hide-and-seek, even the kids who are scared of the dark. Earwig is not among them. "Earwig was never frightened. She had a very strong personality."

This strong personality seems to meet her match when a strange couple visit the orphanage looking to foster a child. Till now Earwig has managed to fend off potential parents. For Earwig has no interest in leaving the orphanage. Why would she? She's got everyone in the joint under her thumb.

The couple choose Earwig, despite her best efforts to look unlovable, and take her home to their bungalow at Thirteen Lime Avenue. From the start, Earwig suspects the couple of being not what they seem. She's right. The "raggety, ribbly" woman in the big red hat is a bona fide witch and the man who has fiery eyes and what appear to be horns growing from his head is you-guessed-it. Earwig is put to work as the witch's assistant and spends her days pounding rat bones into powder and picking nettles from the garden. Her days of getting her own way are apparently over.

Or not. Earwig is a plucky child and she doesn't give in to despair. Refreshingly, she finds the odd situation she's in a challenge and one to be overcome not endured. Determined to learn magic, she pairs up with the witch's familiar, a talking black cat named Thomas, and together the two manage to turn the tables on the couple. By book's end Earwig is once again firmly in the driver's seat. How she gets there makes for a fast, entertaining read.
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