Stopping for a Spell
by Diana Wynne Jones
Here are three light-hearted tales of magic from one of my favorite authors. Since each story consists of several chapters, they could be called novellettes -- but the three of them together make a pretty slim book, so lets just call them tales.
The first one is Chair Person, a cautionary tale about leaving the TV on in front of an empty chair, talking about burning a piece of furniture while in its presence, and letting bossy busybodies stage-manage your life. A bit of unplanned magic brings a crummy old armchair to life. Chair Person is a non-stop talker with a bottomless appetite and a mean streak. In just 24 hours he turns Simon and Marcias life upside down. The children race against time to reverse the spell that created Chair Person, before the chaotic magic destoys their family and their home.
The second tale is The Four Grannies, featuring a little boy named Erg who has a mother, a stepfather, a stepsister, and thereby four nightmarish grandmothers. Known by number rather than by name, Grannies One through Four become a real problem when they all show up at the same time to babysit Erg and Emily. All Erg wants to do is work on his invention, made of items found lying around the house and (wouldnt you know it) a magic wand. Erg calls his invention a prayer machine even before he discovers that it actually does answer prayer...but not in a predictable way. While Erg tries to keep the Grannies busy long enough to finish his invention, really disturbing things start to happen including the creation of the terrible Supergranny.
The book concludes with Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? Candida and her two brothers want nothing more than to get rid of Angus Flint, a really obnoxious, freeloading friend of the family who seems to have moved in for good. The creep pulls kids hair, insults their mothers cooking, bosses everyone around, and practices yoga when anyone tries to talk to him seriously. His fatal mistake? Abusing the furniture. Beds, chairs, tables, and pianos will only take so much abuse before they get resentful. And trust me, you dont want resentful furniture to suddenly awaken...
The stories in this book fulfill some of our basic fantasies. They show us ordinary people like ourselves, who have everday problems. We wish we could do something magical to make those problems go away. But of course we would realize, if we thought about it seriously, that once that kind of magic was turned loose, we would have a whole new set of problems, and then we would need to find a way to get rid of the magic. Thats what happens in this book. Diana Wynne Jones has the audacity, the creativity, and the sheer sense of fun to think our casual wishes through to their logical conclusion and to turn them into hilarious, exciting, and weird stories like these.
Recommended Age: 10+
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