Diana Wynne Jones, 1934-2011
Review by Michele Bolay
Diana has been gone for 5 years as of March 26. Her books, however, will live on forever.
“Writing for adults, you have to keep reminding them of what is going on. Children you only need to tell things to once.” ~ Diana Wynne Jones
The world lost one of its best fantasy writers with the death of Diana Wynne Jones in March 2011. Her writing was so good that, not only did it sell well, it became popular with children, teens, adults, and other fantasy writers, and several of her children’s and teen books (and the all-ages nonfiction book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland) are now regarded as modern classics. She was friends with Neil Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman were both fans of each other’s work; she dedicated her novel Hexwood to him after something he said in a conversation that inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to “Four Witches”, of whom Jones was one.
Reviewers and readers have also compared her work (especially the Chrestomanci series) to the Harry Potter series, but the comparison should really be the other way around. Jones was writing long before J.K. Rowling, and her work has a richness (and a brevity) that is sometimes lacking in Rowling’s novels, in my opinion. Plus, Jones is very funny when she wants to be.
I have never been a big fantasy fan overall, but I am always enthusiastic about great storytelling, whatever genre it might be. The head of the children’s department at the time introduced me to Jones’ books when I started working at Tredyffrin almost 25 years ago, and Jones made a fantasy reader out of me. Don’t take my word for it. Check out one or more of her books and decide for yourself. Some suggestions are listed below, along with just a portion of the awards for which she and her books have been nominated over the years. Thank you, Diana. You are missed.
Click on a title to check availability.
The Chrestomanci Series (if you’re a Harry Potter fan), to be read in this order, suggested by Jones
The Lives of Christopher Chant
The Magicians of Caprona
The Pinhoe Egg
The Castle Trilogy (if you’re a folklore and fairy tale fan), to be read in this order
Howl’s Moving Castle (my personal favorite)
Castle In the Air
House of Many Ways
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (nonfiction)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Year of the Griffin
Awards and Honors:
British Fantasy Society Award
Honorary Doctor of Letters from Bristol University
Preis der Leseratten
World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Academy Award Nomination for Best Animated Feature (for the film ofHowl’s Moving Castle, adapted and directed by Hayao Miyazaki)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
Carnegie Medal (multiple times)
Childrens Book Award
Guardian Award (multiple times)
Mythopoeic Award (multiple times)
About the reviewer: Michele Bolay has worked in the children’s department of Tredyffrin Public Library for more than 25 years! She certainly qualifies as an expert in children’s fiction.