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Howl's Moving Castle Paperback – April 22, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up Sophie Hatter reads a great deal and soon realizes that as the eldest of three daughters she is doomed to an uninteresting future. She resigns herself to making a living as a hatter and helping her younger sisters prepare to make their fortunes. But adventure seeks her out in the shop where she sits alone, dreaming over her hats. The wicked Witch of the Waste, angered by "competition" in the area, turns her into a old woman, so she seeks refuge inside the strange moving castle of the wizard Howl. Howl, advertised by his apprentice as an eater of souls, lives a mad, frantic life trying to escape the curse the witch has placed on him, find the perfect girl of his dreams and end the contract he and his fire demon have entered. Sophie, against her best instincts and at first unaware of her own powers, falls in love. So goes this intricate, humorous and puzzling tale of fantasy and adventure which should both challenge and involve readers. Jones has created an engaging set of characters and found a new use for many of the appurtenances of fairy talesseven league boots and invisible cloaks, among others. At times, the action becomes so complex that readers may have to go back to see what actually happened, and at the end so many loose ends have to be tied up at once that it's dizzying. Yet Jones' inventiveness never fails, and her conclusion is infinitely satisfying. Sara Miller, White Plains Public Library, N.Y.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"!Her hallmarks include laugh-aloud humour, plenty of magic and imaginative array of alternate worlds. Yet, at the same time, a great seriousness is present in all of her novels, a sense of urgency that links Jones's most outrageous plots to her readers' hopes and fears!" Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters, which in this fantasyland means that she's the one who doesn't have an astounding "fortune" to seek. Instead she's stuck at the hat shop. One day a plump, very rude woman comes to see the hats, and Sophie uncharacteristically insults her. Unfortunately, this woman is the Witch of the Wastes, and responds by aging Sophie into a crone. Peeved out of being shy and retiring, she tramps off to the "Moving Castle" of the supposedly evil wizard Howl, who reportedly [steals] out the souls of young girls.
After arriving at the castle, she encounters Howl's pleasant apprentice and contracted fire demon Calcifer (who promises to disenchant Sophie if she breaks his contract). Though she annoys the rather self-absorbed Howl and drives Calcifer almost nuts at times, Sophie becomes the cleaning lady at the Moving Castle. She begins searching for the chewed-up hearts of the girls, only to find something a lot more bizarre -- including her own peculiar magic.
If you've ever read a fairy tale -- Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast -- you'll know that the youngest kids are always are the favored ones. They go on to marry princes or princesses, become wealthy and beloved. Jones mocks this and many other fairy-tale cliches, such as the hilarious scene where Sophie lurches around in seven-league boots. There's even a brief homage to J.R.R. Tolkien.
It's certainly an interesting twist to have a not-so-evil evil-wizard, a harried apprentice, and a heroine who appears to be in her nineties. Similarly, the ideas of the "Moving Castle" with its doors to other places (including modern Wales) is very original. That's not even mentioning the attacking scarecrow.
Until she's aged into a crone, Sophie isn't much of a heroine; she's too timid and dull to be of interest. Post-aging, she becomes interesting and delightfully pushy. Howl is not what you think of a "bad" wizard as; his tantrums over things like hair dye are hysterically funny, and he's also immensely attractive to the opposite sex. Michael is a good sidekick, with the common-sense that Howl lacks; Calcifur the fire demon is one of Jones' most memorable characters, especially when Sophie bullies him.
While it isn't quite as spectacular as Jones' Chrestomanci Chronicles, "Howl's Moving Castle" will appeal to those who liked fantasy spoof "Dark Lord of Derkholm" and "Year of the Griffin." A funny, thought-provoking magical ride.
Summary: A young girl gets vexed by an evil witched to lives as a 90 year old woman. She travels out to meet with her sister and stumbles upon Howl's castle and decides to take refuge from the bitter cold within. She then meets a fire demon who offers to break the spell on her, as long as she can break the spell that is on him.
There were a couple things in the movie that I didnt like and that didn't make sense to me until I read the book....If you don't like spoilers then dont read below because here is a minor spoiler that explains part of the movie:
In the movie, at times when Sophie would be sleeping or felt happyness, you would see her appearance transform into a young girl again. Then she'd suddenly change back to an old woman again. Why is that???? Well in the book, you find out that Sophie has always felt like a 90 year old woman because of her bland clothes and life. Sophie has magical capabilities that she doesn't realize until the very end. When you see her as a youthful girl, it is because she feels young at heart. She often tells herself that being an old woman suites her and this is what her appearance becomes as a result if her own will. There. Now the animation makes sense.
I liked the book more that the movie and will purchase other novels by Diane Wynne Jones.
The plot is significantly different in this book. There isn’t as much at stake because there is no war in this one, but it feels like there is so much more going on than in the movie.
This is such an unusual, but warm-and-fuzzy fairytale. There isn’t a heck of a lot going on in terms of plot, but this is a character-driven novel for sure, and it delivers. Most every character is lovable, and by the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I’d made new friends. I rarely find a book that special anymore. The magic is subtle and inspires childlike wonder, and the setting is so fitting. (By the way, there is a MAJOR twist in this aspect that will probably make you gasp. Actually gasp.)
The love story between Howl and Sophie is actually not my favourite part. It’s development is unlike that of any other love story I’ve read, so it gets points in that sense. I just wish Howl wasn’t such a floozy, but I enjoyed his silliness and kindness. The gratification of the love story doesn’t come until the very, very end, and even then, not much happens (that we see, anyhow.) Some people may prefer this, but I was all “NOOOO, this can’t end yet! I need more Howl/Sophie fluff.” Maybe we’ll get some in the companion novels?
Please read it. It’s old-timey and reminds me of Anne of Green Gables (one of my faves), only with magic and general quirky weirdness. Read it. It will make you happy.