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Earwig and the Witch

Earwig and the Witch

3.5 7
by Diana Wynne Jones, Paul O. Zelinsky (Illustrator)

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"I would like to declare Diana Wynne Jones an international treasure," proclaimed Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist and best-selling author. In this enchanting introduction to Diana Wynne Jones's magical and funny work, Earwig is a fearless young orphan. When she finds herself in a house of dark magic, she does whatever she can to adapt—especially if it means


"I would like to declare Diana Wynne Jones an international treasure," proclaimed Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist and best-selling author. In this enchanting introduction to Diana Wynne Jones's magical and funny work, Earwig is a fearless young orphan. When she finds herself in a house of dark magic, she does whatever she can to adapt—especially if it means that she'll learn a little magic herself! A young middle grade novel by World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement‒winner Diana Wynne Jones, beautifully illustrated in black and white by Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky.

Not every orphan would love living at St. Morwald's Home for Children, but Earwig does. She gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, and it's been that way since she was dropped on the orphanage doorstep as a baby. But all that changes the day Bella Yaga and the Mandrake come to St. Morwald's, disguised as foster parents. Earwig is whisked off to their mysterious house full of invisible rooms, potions, and spell books, with magic around every corner. Most children would run in terror from a house like that . . . but not Earwig. Using her own cleverness—with a lot of help from a talking cat—she decides to show the witch who's boss.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This funny story updates fairy tale conventions while highlighting Jones’s subversive wit and her firm belief that children can control their own lives. Earwig rules the roost at St. Morwald’s Home for Children until she is adopted by a witchy woman named Bella Yaga with “one brown eye and one blue one, and a raggety, ribby look to her face.” Earwig hopes to learn magic from Bella Yaga, but is trapped in the woman’s decrepit house, sharing it with the Mandrake, an impossibly tall and grouchy being. Powerful and evil, Bella Yaga uses Earwig as a second pair of hands for grinding up disgusting things in bowls (“The only thing wrong with magic is that it smells so awful,” Earwig quips). The witch and the Mandrake, however, have never before dealt with a determined girl who claims alpha status; Zelinsky’s spot art, not all seen by PW, makes it clear that the squinty, pigtailed heroine is not someone to be trifled with. Featuring delightfully odd characters and eccentric magic, this all too brief tale is a fine introduction to the late author’s more complex YA novels. Ages 8–12. Agent: Laura Cecil. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
Erica Wigg, known as Earwig, is an orphan who has spent her entire life at St. Morwald's Home for Children. She is very happy there because she really rules the roost and always gets exactly what she wants from everyone. One day a very unordinary couple comes to the orphanage to adopt an older child. In spite of looking as unattractive as she could, the couple chooses Earwig. Once in their home, the woman reveals that she is a witch and her name is Bella Yaga. Earwig is immediately put to work assisting her after being warned not to disturb Mandrake, the huge man with horns and evil, glittering eyes, who also lives in the house. Earwig soon discovers that if she wants to learn magic she will have to gain control of the situation by getting Bella Yaga and Mandrake to do her bidding. With the help of a talking black cat named Thomas, she creates a spell to make both of them immune from all spells. Eventually Earwig controls the entire situation, just as she did at St. Morwald's and she is very content. This well written and often humorous fantasy is sure to be popular with young readers who enjoy this genre. The book jacket, which depicts Earwig with a smile of sly satisfaction, is also certain to attract readers. All the black and white illustrations are in perfect accord with the text and add greatly to the storyline. Put this title on the first purchase list as it will soon be in great demand. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
Kirkus Reviews
A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones' last, posthumous offering. Most children hate orphanages, but Earwig--Erica Wigg, according to her birth certificate--loves hers. Earwig manages people to perfection, and everyone at Saint Morwald's Home for Children does exactly what Earwig wants, whether it's making her a shepherd's pie or buying her a new red sweater. She's excellent at making herself unlovable to potential foster parents so they'll leave her alone in sunny St. Morwald's. But a terrible new pair of prospective parents arrives at the home: nasty-faced Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, a ridiculously tall man who seems to have horns. Bella Yaga and the Mandrake cart Earwig off, willy-nilly, to powder rats' bones and cook breakfast. Indomitable Earwig determines that if she must work for a smelly witch, at least she'll learn magic. But how to do so when wicked Bella Yaga keeps threatening to give her worms? Moreover, no matter what, Earwig has been warned not to disturb the Mandrake, who trucks with demons. Earwig, illustrated with marvelous vitality by Zelinsky, is not to be trifled with. There's just the right level of grotesquerie and scariness (worms that are "blue and purple and very wriggly") in this utterly charming chapter book. Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end. (Fantasy. 7-9)
“A refreshing change of pace for young fantasy fans.”
Booklist (starred review)
“With this enthralling book, Jones proves that she is still at the top of her game.”
The Horn Book
“Readers are treated to a nonstop plot, memorable characters, and signature DWJ touches … An accessible page design incorporates Zelinsky’s plentiful line illustrations, the best of which are showstoppers.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Jones brings her characteristic witty humor and rich imagination to a whimsical chapter book that would undoubtedly delight as a readaloud. Stubborn and mischievous, Earwig is a likable, albeit irascible, heroine, and her triumph at the witch’s expense will elicit plenty of cheerful howls.”
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Earwig is a most unusual girl. As a baby, she arrived at St. Morwald's Orphanage under mysterious circumstances. Since then, she has possessed a strange affinity for making the staff do exactly what she wants—from preparing her favorite meals to buying her new clothes. For this reason, Earwig goes out of her way to avoid being adopted. Then comes the fateful day Bella Yaga, accompanied by Mandrake, her sinister shape-shifting sidekick, arrives at St. Morwald's and takes Earwig to do her grunt work. Slave duty doesn't even come with magic lessons. But with the help of Thomas, a feline familiar, Earwig outsmarts the witch in a most ironic way. And before long, she has both Bella Yaga and Mandrake under her control. This appears to have been the first in a charming new series, cut short by the author's untimely passing in 2011. Earwig is a plucky, albeit bossy, heroine, and the story is packed with wit and humor. Zelinsky's illustrations enhance this imaginative tale.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.80(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934‒2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards—and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter—her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.

Paul O. Zelinsky is the illustrator of Anne Isaac's Dust Devil and creator of the now-classic interactive book called The Wheels on the Bus. His retelling of Rapunzel was awarded the 1998 Caldecott Medal. Rumpelstitlskin, Hansel and Gretel and Swamp Angel with different authors all garnered Paul a Caldecott Honor. Since 1991 Paul O. Zelinsky has lived in the same apartment with his wife Deborah in northern Brooklyn, New York.

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Earwig and the Witch 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Delightful story of a GIRL who knows what she wants and gets it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if I should buy this book because 1 person says that it is the best book ever and 1 person says it toatly sucks and 2 people are talking about oranges(ps the pearson who likes to eat oranges from the toilet,you really scare me)so any tips?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible, gothic story! @#$%!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Derek is watxhing you closely