It was only a few years ago that I discovered that Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Howl’s Moving Castle was based on Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel of the same name. Given how much I enjoy the film I am almost ashamed that it took so long for me to get to the book—and to discover there were a further two in the series! So three days ago I finally found myself a copy and settled in for what I fully expected to be a great read. I was not disappointed.
There are some children’s books which you can come back to and enjoy at any age and there are quite a few you cannot. Thankfully Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the former. From the very first words I was spellbound by the novel’s fairy tale quality, by the third chapter I was buying an extra copy for my nieces and nephews, and by the tenth chapter I was so unwilling to put it down I read more than half of it in one sitting.
The story, for those that are unfamiliar with it, follows the journey of Sophie Hatter after her father’s death. Left in her step-mother’s care and full of self-degradation for being the eldest (the eldest can never do a thing right), Sophie trims the most exquisite hats, drawing the attention of the dreaded Witch of the Waste who curses Sophie with old age. Meanwhile, Wizard Howl is on the prowl for more young women’s hearts to eat—chased by a scarecrow, at a loss for what to do, and believing herself safe from the evil wizard, Sophie finds herself at Howl’s house. Despite her expectations, the house is not filled with the hearts of the women Howl terrorised, but his young apprentice, Michael, fire-demon-friend, Calcifer, and plenty of spiders. Having been forced against her will to seek her fortune and expecting only misfortune to come of it, Sophie settles in nicely in the castle, slowly discovering her talent for witchcraft and speaking things to life.
Jam packed with wonder, the novel is fairly short and quite accessible to young readers as well as being enjoyable for adults. I have yet to read any others in the series but am eagerly awaiting their arrival. I would highly recommend the novel, Sophie’s practical voice rationalises any fear the reader may have about the Witch of the Waste, Howl, and the scarecrow.
Words by Kayla Gaskell.
Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa. A self-professed bibliophile, she has a pressing problem: she’s running out of bookshelves.