The buzz of Harry Potter is so huge, at least in my head, that I haven’t been able to put the books down. I reread the Half Blood Prince in anticipation of the movie and then immediately went on to the Deathly Hallows. I loved the movie, too! Excited utterances of “Won-Won!” and “Merlin’s beard!” can be heard in my apartment at the merest provocation.
So in the midst of renewed Potter mania, I was searching for something else to read that would really grab my imagination. I found Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones. Maybe the stretch from one wizard in a bizarre and wonderful castle to another isn’t too far, but this book’s premise strikes more of a fairy tale note than HP. Sophie, the eldest of three, has an apprenticeship in a hat shop. She’s so good at making and fitting hats to people that the Witch of the Waste comes calling to get rid of the competition. She turns poor Sophie into an old woman, with the kicker that she cannot reveal that she’s been bewitched. Confused and scared, she leaves town and comes across a castle that roams the countryside which she knows to be the home of Wizard Howl, who is rumored to eat young girls hearts! Sophie can’t imagine where else to go, and besides, she’s not a young girl anymore, even if she still is smart, plucky and hard working.
If the book suits you, you might also be interested in the manga and anime adaptations, the latter done by Hayao Miyazaki, the captivating director of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. I’m also excited to start reading the sequel The House of Many Ways.