Earwig and the Witch

2/29/12 My favorite parts of the newest (and perhaps last) book from the late Diana Wynne Jones are the illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner Paul O. Zelinsky, who also happens to be my husband’s first-cousin-once-removed as well as our good friend. (I do not mention this to be “transparent.” Rather, I brag.) I love the electricity of the lines, especially the ones that capture Earwig’s pigtails. I love the expressions of the face made so vivid but a small mark or shading. Yes, Paul really did it up again here. So, OK, now to the story. Everyone who knows children’s books loves Diana Wynne Jones, and Earwig and the Witch is charming, funny and even a little scary. Just a little. Just the right amount for a eight- or nine-year-old reading a chapter book on his own, or the six-year-old who is making friends with the mysterious heroine in nightly installments. Earwig is terrific: smart, resourceful, cheerful, loyal, loving, and she appreciates good food. She’s also wily enough to get those around her to do what she wants and the mean old witch and warlock turn out to be not so horrible after all. I am truly sorry there won’t be many sequels. But my great nieces and nephew can be assured that copies of this wonderful tale for middle readers (and even younger kids) will be winging their way to them soon. (A click on the cover picture will take you to the Barnes & Noble website.)