Saturday, July 9, 2011

Magic and a case of the cutesie-wootsies (Books - The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones)

Every so often I find it fun to dip into a the ya fantasy genre, and so Diana Wynne Jones's The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, including both Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant, came with me on my trip. They were both written in the tried and true mold - insecure child is left parentless, through his hardships discovers he has magical powers which makes he strong although he learns it is also a burden, wars are fought and won... you know, the usual. These serve as useful metaphors to the trials of what it feels like to be a child without being to directly preechy.
Gwendolyn gave vent to her fury in her room after dinner. She jumped on her bed and threw cushions about, screaming. Cat stood prudently back against the wall waiting for her to finish. But Gwendolyn did not finish until she had pledged herself to a campaign against Chrestomanci.
Gwendolyn and Cat are the parentless children, he's the insecure one and she become the force to be reckoned with. He's a cat, so he has nine lives, there end up being parallel universes, all interesting plot ideas to be sure. The trouble for my money is that Cat was blandly passive and unsure and Gwendolyn was such a cliched bad witch/tantrumy child that I remained unconvinced of his uncertainty or her evil. Had her anger been convincing, I could have gotten caught up in the story but the cleaned-up, televisiony exaggeration of emotions and twee style of narration left me lightly entertained but uninvolved. I'm not sure what a genuine kid would think about it. They might have a grand time, but this book left me wondering why so many writers for children pander to them. It is possible to write stories kids want to read that treat them intelligently - Sonia Hartnett is a whiz at it.

1 comment:

C.B. James said...

I can only tell you based on what I see my own students reading, but I've seen very few students reading Ms. Wynne Jones. I've a feeling the covers really sell her books. I'd love to hear what younger readers think. She has many, many titles in print so she must be doing something right.