Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Series #1)

( 454 )


In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was ...

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Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Series #1)

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In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.

The Hatter sisters—Sophie, Lettie, and Martha—and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?

Diana Wynne Jones's entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.


Eldest of three sisters in a land where it is considered to be a misfortune, Sophie is resigned to her fate as a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the greatly feared wizard Howl.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
In Wynne Jones' fantasy universe there is always odd magic cropping up. When the reluctant milliner Sophie talks to her hats, unfortunately they listen. It is unfortunate, because in unwittingly giving futures to her hats' purchasers, she brings down the wrath of the Witch of the Waste. A quick visit by the witch, a short spell, and seventeen-year-old Sophie is aged sixty years. Undaunted, Sophie hobbles off to seek her fortune as a cleaning woman in the moving castle of the young wizard Howl—and the fun begins. Shortly Sophie has the entire establishment well in hand, even the vain clothes-horse Howl. But finding an end to her spell is another matter. Wynne Jones' castle is a marvelous conceit—four doors open onto four different locations, and the whole is moved by Howl's talking fire demon, Calcifer. In this first of three interconnected stories (followed by Castle in the Air, 1990, and House of Many Ways, 2008), Wynne Jones creates the memorable characters who believably people her country of Ingary in an alternate, late Victorian-era world. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up Sophie Hatter reads a great deal and soon realizes that as the eldest of three daughters she is doomed to an uninteresting future. She resigns herself to making a living as a hatter and helping her younger sisters prepare to make their fortunes. But adventure seeks her out in the shop where she sits alone, dreaming over her hats. The wicked Witch of the Waste, angered by ``competition'' in the area, turns her into a old woman, so she seeks refuge inside the strange moving castle of the wizard Howl. Howl, advertised by his apprentice as an eater of souls, lives a mad, frantic life trying to escape the curse the witch has placed on him, find the perfect girl of his dreams and end the contract he and his fire demon have entered. Sophie, against her best instincts and at first unaware of her own powers, falls in love. So goes this intricate, humorous and puzzling tale of fantasy and adventure which should both challenge and involve readers. Jones has created an engaging set of characters and found a new use for many of the appurtenances of fairy talesseven league boots and invisible cloaks, among others. At times, the action becomes so complex that readers may have to go back to see what actually happened, and at the end so many loose ends have to be tied up at once that it's dizzying. Yet Jones' inventiveness never fails, and her conclusion is infinitely satisfying. Sara Miller, White Plains Public Library, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064410342
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Series: Howl's Castle Series, #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 137,001
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the 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 were filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In which Sophie talks to hats

In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success. Her parents were well to do and kept a ladies' hat shop in the prosperous town of Market Chipping. True, her own mother died when Sophie was two years old and her sister Lettie was one year old, and their father married his youngest shop assistant, a pretty blonde girl called Fanny. Fanny shortly gave birth to the third sister, Martha. This ought to have made Sophie and Lettle into Ugly Sisters, but in fact all three girls grew up very pretty indeed, though Lettie was the one everyone said was most beautiful. Fanny treated all three girls with the same kindness and did not favor Martha in the least.

Mr. Hatter was proud of his three daughters and sent them all to the best school in town. Sophie was the most studious. She read a great deal, and very soon realized how little chance she had of an interesting future. It was a disappointment to her, but she was still happy enough, looking after her sisters and grooming Martha to seek her fortune when the time came. Since Fanny was always busy in the shop, Sophie was the one who looked after the younger two. There was a certain amount of screaming and hairpulling between those younger two. Lettie was by no means resignedto being the one who, next to Sophie, was bound to be the least successful.

"It's not fair!" Lettie would shout. "Why should Martha have the best of it just because she was born the youngest? I shall marry a prince, so there!"

To which Martha always retorted that she would end up disgustingly rich without having to marry anybody.

Then Sophie would have to drag them apart and mend their clothes. She was very deft with her needle. As time went on, she made clothes for her sisters too. There was one deep rose outfit she made for Lettie, the May Day before this story really starts, which Fanny said looked as if it had come from the most expensive shop in Kingsbury.

About this time everyone began talking of the Witch of the Waste again. It was said the Witch had threatened the life of the King's daughter and that the King had commanded his personal magician, Wizard Suliman, to go into the Waste and deal with the Witch. And it seemed that Wizard Stillman had not only failed to deal with the Witch: he had got himself killed by her.

So when, a few months after that, a tall black castle suddenly appeared on the hills above Market Chipping, blowing clouds of black smoke from its four tall, thin turrets, everybody was fairly sure that the Witch had moved out of the Waste again and was about to terrorize the country the way she used to fifty years ago. People got very scared indeed. Nobody went out alone, particularly at night. What made it all the scarier was that the castle did not stay in the same place. Sometimes it was a tall black smudge on the moors to the northwest, sometimes it reared above the rocks to the east, and sometimes it came right downhill to sit in the heather only just beyond the last farm to the north. You could see it actually moving sometimes, with smoke pouring out from the turrets in dirty gray gusts. For a while everyone was certain that the castle would come right down into the valley before long, and the Mayor talked of sending to the King for help.

But the castle stayed roving about the hills, and it was learned that it did not belong to the Witch but toWizard Howl. Wizard Howl was bad enough. Though he did not seem to want to leave the hills, he was known to amuse himself by collecting young girls and sucking the souls from them. Or some people said he ate their hearts. He was an utterly cold-blooded and heartless wizard and no young girl was safe from him if he caught her on her own. Sophie, Lettie, and Martha, along with all the other girls in Market Chipping, were warned never to go out alone, which was a great annoyance to them. They wondered what use Wizard Howl found for all the souls he collected.

They had other things on their minds before long, however, for Mr. Hatter died suddenly just as Sophie was old enough to leave school for good. It then appeared that Mr. Hatter had been altogether too proud of his daughters. The school fees he had been paying had left the shop with quite heavy debts. When the funeral was over, Fanny sat down in the parlor in the house next door to the shop and explained the situation.

"You'll all have to leave that school, I'm afraid," she said. "I've been doing sums back and front and sideways, and the only way I can see to keep the business going and take care of the three of you is to see you all settled in a promising apprenticeship somewhere. It isn't practical to have you all in the shop. I can't afford it. So this is what I've decided. Lettie first -- "

Howl's Moving Castle. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 454 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 455 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A Lover of Fantasy

    This is the best fantasy book I have ever read. The characters are extremely likeable and not one-dimensional. The humor included is great and I love the hilarious situations that Howl creates due to his vanity. The plot is engaging and Howl's Moving Castle is one of those books that you just can't put down. I have read this book over and over again and stil it fails to bore me. Readers beware: Make sure that you give yourself time for it will most likely be that you finish this book in one sitting!

    39 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Courtesy of Mother-Daughter Book Club .com

    Sophie is sure that her life is meant to come to nothing, because where she lives the eldest child is always ill-fated. So when times get tough for her family she is content to stay home and work in the family hat shop while her two younger sisters go off to bright futures working in a bakery and learning magic. But when the Witch of the Waste comes into her shop one day and casts a spell on Sophie, making her appear old, she decides to set off into the wider world where she knows no one.

    When her old bones become tired at the end of her first day of wandering, she finds herself at the edge of the wizard Howl's castle. The castle is enchanted; it moves and blows puffs of smoke constantly. Although Sophie is afraid of Howl because she heard he eats young girls' souls, in the guise of an old woman she thinks she will be safe. With thoughts of finding a warm fireside and a comfy chair, Sophie goes into the castle.

    She finds Howl's assistant Michael, and his fire demon, Calcifer, but Howl is not in. As Sophie makes herself useful and becomes a part of the castle life, she begins to learn more and more about Howl, Calcifer and Michael. Gradually, as she gets to know them, they become like a second family to her. But can she keep Howl from being taken by the Witch of the Waste? And can she break a magical spell that binds Calcifer to Howl, so the spell on her can be broken as well?

    Howl's Moving Castle brings up issues of creating family for yourself and seeing people for who they truly are, despite the masks they put up to keep others at a distance. It's about finding love and acceptance, and not being afraid to look for the magic in small moments. The castle itself is fascinating, with its door leading to different villages depending on which colored-button is facing down, its ability to move its location and its permanent window looking onto a sunny port town. Our mother-daughter book club members thought the ending felt a bit rushed, but otherwise we all enjoyed reading it and talking about Sophie, Howl and all the characters. I recommend it for book clubs with daughters aged 13 and up.

    31 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2011

    Great Read, but not a great e-book

    Howl's moving castle is a wonderful book. It's a quick, fun read, and the writing style of Diana Wynne Jones makes you feel like you're reading an old fairy tale and adds greatly to the charm of the story. However, I don't suggest purchasing this story for the nook. The e-book is filled with typos, which are few and far between when you start out, but then become so frequent that they're actually a distraction, and it doesn't help matters that the occasional word is missing. All in all, the ebook feels as though it were carelessly put together, which I don't remember being the case with the plain old paperback edition. It was a bit of a disappointment.

    18 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Whimsical Fantasy That Anyone Will Love

    Howl's Moving Castle was recommended to me by a friend who praised it highly. Needless to say I had high expectations, and Diana Wynne Jones did not disappoint. Howl's Moving Castle is the story of a girl named Sophie who accidentally upsets a witch causing her to turn Sophie into an old woman. With nothing to lose, Sophie sets out to seek her fortune. Along the way, she encounters many strange and magical creatures, none more strange or magical than the feared Wizard Howl. Sophie decides to move in with Wizard Howl and his apprentice Michael, and live with them in their fantastic Moving Castle. While there, Sophie makes a pact with a sarcastic fire demon named Calcifer. Calcifer promises to lift the the spell that has been placed on Sophie if she promises to break his contract with Wizard Howl. In her quest to break the contract, Sophie will discover the true Wizard Howl and learn the secrets of the amazing moving castle.
    While very well written, there are some parts of the story that could be confusing to a younger or less educated reader. This being said, I literally could not bring myself to put this book down as I was reading it. It was as if it were glued to my hands! I heartily recommend this book for anyone with an extensive vocabulary and a reasonable amount of imagination. I also would advise you to see the movie after reading the book because some things will make much more sense. All in all, Howl's Moving Castle is an enchanting story that you will want to read again and again.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2011

    A Refreshing and Delightful Read - A Must!

    You aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but, truth be told, it was the cover of this novel that caught my eye and piqued my curiousity. Just for kicks, I decided to loan it from the library and by the twentieth page, I was at Barnes and Noble, taking home a bag containing the entire series (I'm not a picky spender when it comes to books; I own every Harry Potter book in hardcover).

    Since then, I have been taking this book everywhere with me, reading in my spare time and enjoying every minute of it. In a generation of literature dominated by paranormal romance, it was refreshing to find this book, even if it was published in the '80s and is therefore considered "old-fashioned and outdated" by my peers. Honestly, though, whether you're a fan of the modern vampire/werewolf-fad or more of an admirer of the classics, odds are you'll fall in love from the first few sentences, like I did. I'm not picky about what I read, as long as it's recommended to me. And I've had my share of that-was-a-total-waste-of-time-that-could-have-been-spent-reading-something-decent books, along with oh-my-goodness-I-didn't-know-it-was-possible-to-write-like-that books. And, trust me, this is the polar opposite of the prior.

    As American as I may be, I enjoy to finer things in life (as in, not video games and sleazy television shows) like curling up on the couch with a mug of hot tea and an old book that was a favorite of my grandfather. Maybe you can relate. But I'm a huge fan of anything British, and, being a reader and a novelist, I know a good British author from the first chapter. J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis...I adore them all. Now it's time to add Diana Wynne Jones to the list. Her writing is so unique, it seems only she can pull it off, and this book is written with all of the style and flavor of the Chronicles of Narnia, and the old-world charm of a sort of wonderful new fairy tale that should never be constrained to simple boundaries. It captures the imagination of readers young and old, and I'm certain it will capture you as well.

    I would recommend this book to anyone asking for a lesser-known read, and I find it astonishing that it isn't more popular than it is.

    I hope that you benefit from this review and enjoy this book as much as I. :]

    14 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Better than the movie

    I liked this book more than the movie. It's lighter and has a lot of humor. The movie was dark full of war, magic, and demons. even if some parts are a little slow, it has a spell in it that you can't put it down until you reach the end. You can't help smiling while you read it. It's like it's enchanted

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved It!

    The story captivates you so much! It's imaginative and unlike any story you've read! It's AMAZING!

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2011

    Best book I ever read!

    Very well written book and I loved the movie!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2011

    Highly Recommend!

    This was a fantastic read. I had seen the movie a while before sitting down to read the book. It more than lived up to the hype created to the movie and did not disappoint at all. The world so much larger than the movie shows, and it offers so much more background into the characters and their actions. I highly recommend to anyone who might be interested, they will not be disappointed; fans of the movie or newcomers will enjoy immensely. I cannot wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful! But not a great copy.

    I am thoroughly enjoying this book. It is a complete delight and worth reading every page; however, at the time I purchased it, it has a lamentable and unacceptable number of typographical errors in it for a paid-for book. It gets quite distracting. I'm not sure I would buy an ebook from this same publisher again, since it seems like they don't deliver even standard publishable quality.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    Witty and Wonderful -- A Lasting Favorite

    I'm 28 and this is still my very favorite book. It's not just a children's story, either; it can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. The movie is beautifully animated but nothing can replace the charm of Jones's original story, setting, and characters -- the characters especially, since they are unusually memorable. In the magical land of Ingary, a shy young woman named Sophie is the eldest of three sisters. When the infamous Witch of the Waste mistakes Sophie for someone else and turns her into a cranky old woman, Sophie leaves home and seeks shelter inside a moving castle owned by a notorious womanizing wizard named Howl. Rumors throughout Ingary say Howl is heartless, but Sophie insists on working for Howl as a cleaning lady in exchange for room and board. Sophie subsequently discovers that the melodramatic yet secretive Howl is nothing like his reputation, and that Howl, Howl's young apprentice Michael, and resident fire demon Calcifer are all in need of Sophie's help. Can Sophie help Howl and her new friends AND defeat the Witch of the Wastes? And can Howl and friends help Sophie? Diana Wynne Jones combines fantasy, mystery, action, humor, and romance for a really enjoyable tale that has become very popular over the years. I'm really glad this is now available as an eBook so that I can pick it up whenever I want.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    a fair amount of excitement

    The first time I ever heard of this book was in 2006 when we lived in St. Louis, MO, and a friend of our younger son Jeremy with whom he played homeschool baseball, gave a report in a local homeschool Network newsletter. A few years later, after we had moved from St. Louis to Salem, IL, we picked Howl’s Moving Castle, made from the book in 2004 by Hayao Miyazaki, for a family video. The film generally follows the book, but as Jackson noted there are some major differences. I read several reviews by people who actually liked the movie better than the book. The main complaints about the novel are that it is has poor character development, flimsy story lines, implausible plot devices, and too many words yet not enough real description. Personally, I found the book well-written and generaly easy to read with a fair amount of excitement, but I did note a few concerns. First, the plot has an almost “absurdist” quality to it. That doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but some people may not care for that sort of story. There are some common euphemisms, such as “drat” and “confound it,” a few curse-like terms (“damnation” and “Hell’s teeth”), and one instance of the word “Lord” used as an exclamation. Howl has as reputation as a womanizer, courting girls until they fall in love with him then dropping them for someone else but nothing sexual is actually implied. References to drinking beer, brandy, and wine occur, and Howl comes home drunk once towards the end. If you prefer not to have your children reading books which contain magic or witchcraft, you would obviously want to avoid this one. I do make a distinction between books which I believe promote an interest in the occult, such as Harry Potter, and those where the magic or witchcraft is simply part of the fictional setting of a story. Howl’s Moving Castle comes about as close to the former as possible, and only the “absurdist” nature of the plot might keep it from falling into that category.
    Author Diana Wynne Jones, was born in London, England, on August 16, 1934, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were educators. She is a British writer, principally of fantasy novels for children and adults, as well as a small amount of non-fiction. Some of her better-known works include the Chrestomanci series. Her books range from a broad, almost slapstick delight in the construction of absurd-yet-logical situations, especially evident in the endings of some of her books, to sharp social observation, to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a non-fiction work on clichés in fantasy fiction that has a cult following as a reference among writers and critics, despite being difficult to find due to an erratic printing history, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless, though not unaffectionate, critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics. Charmed Life, the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children’s Books. Archer's Goon (1984), a Boston Globe - Horn Book Honor Book and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel nominee, was adapted for television in 1992. According to her autobiography, Diana has been an atheist since she was ten. Howl's Moving Castle won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was named an ALA Notable book for both children and young adults. A sequel

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    This was a great book. Highly recommended for young adults, fans

    This was a great book. Highly recommended for young adults, fans of the movie, or Neil Gaiman fans. Looking at previous reviews, I believe whatever problems may have been present in earlier version of the eBook are no longer present.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    If you like the movie...

    If you like the movie, you may or may not like the book. The movie takes many liberties that have nothing to do with the book at all. However, the redeeming factor about the movie vs. book is that they are so different that they are two separate entities. I enjoy both immensely!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2005


    One reason why this book is hard to put down is because it is 100 percent original. You'll never know what will happen next. Humorous, wily, and detailed, this is a great book to add to anyone's fantasy collection.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003


    I think this book is one of those few stories that stay with you throughout your life. I've never read anything so peculiar but hey..! It's all good! I really enjoyed the twists and hidden messages within the story. For some reason I really liked Michael. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because he freaked out when Sophie began cleaning up the place.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    So Many Great Books, Unfortunately This Isn't One of Them

    Given the reviews, I expected this book to be something quite special. Unfortunately, the book was not at all what it could have been. Although it was based on an interested idea, the idea was never fully realized. Many of the characters were one-dimensional and rather boring. The writing was flat and there was simply never the pull to keep turning pages. The ending was quite predictable. Given the many excellent books available for this age group, I passed on giving it to my kids and I'll have them focus on some guaranteed great reads as opposed to a merely okay read.

    2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a wonderful book

    I would recommend this book for all ages! However, the book is very different from the movie, it is still very wonderful and catches your attention on every page.

    Sophie, is the eldest of three sisters, she has to stay behind to take over her fathers hat shop while her two other sisters move on to different apprentices. One day while she is working in the hat shop the wicked witch of the waste pays her a visit and tuns her in to an old woman.

    Sophie, is so embarrased by what she has become that she sets out on an adventure. When she gets tired and can't move any more howl's castle appears and she ends up letting herself in. After that she ends up working for howl as a maid.

    At first Sophie is afraid of howl because of all the rumors she has been hearing, but soon finds out that she grows more and more fond of him with each day passing.

    When I read this book i could not put it down!!! She also has a sequal to this book called house of many ways which is also a wonderful read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012


    Heeeeeey babes. Wanna have it heeere?

    1 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Thanx 4 the review

    Very helpful.i think i'll wait a while,though,since i'm reading lives of the monster dogs right ya i should loosen up:3

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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