The Barnes & Noble Review
Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett serves up another fantastic Discworld tale, this time starring a budding witch -- and a pack of mini blue warriors -- on a rescue mission to find her kidnapped brother.
Tiffany Aching has all the makings of a strong witch, including quick wit against scary creatures, various levels of "Sight," and the unheard-of ability to befriend the Nac Mac Feegle -- otherwise known as the Wee Free Men. So when the powerful Queen of the Elves snatches Tiffany's brother, the confident girl travels to Fairyland with the help of her new blue friends, battling sinister dogs, escaping the dreams of magical dromes, and finally coming face-to-face with the nightmarish queen herself. Tiffany has the ability to defeat the evil ruler, but in order to escape, she must first connect with the past, know her home, and feel herself alive.
With all the adventure and smart humor his fans have come to love, Pratchett's Discworld novel is entrancing from the start. Always a master storyteller, the author weaves together various worlds and times to create scenes deep enough for fantasy lovers of every level. Tiffany and the Wee Free Men are memorable characters, and we certainly hope we haven't seen the last of them. Shana Taylor
The Washington Post
Despite its slapstick, wordplay and "Simpsons"-like comedy, The Wee Free Men teaches, slantwise like all good fiction, the importance of trust, kindness, determination and responsibility. And as in any good fantasy tale, the Story ends with nothing changed and everything changed. — Michael Dirda
This tale set in Discworld stars a plucky young witch-in-training who, according to PW's starred review, "will win over not only readers but the title characters, (somewhat) lovable imps who exude a certain charm despite their innate and unrepentant kleptomania." Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
As Tiffany Aching lies beside a stream tickling a trout, she wishes she could be a witch. Then Miss Perspicacia Tick, a proven witch, comes along and tells Tiffany that she is a witch already. She loans Tiffany her talking toad to help teach her what it means to be a witch. Before long Tiffany meets the Wee Free Men who are blue, six inches tall and sound amazing like old Scottish Reivers. When her brother is stolen by the "Quin" and taken into fairyland, the Wee Free Men join her on her quest to rescue him. Armed only with a frying pan and her grandmother's book about the diseases of sheep, Tiffany and her allies meet many fearsome challenges, not the least of which is nightmares that distort reality. Her search for her brother mixes humor and adventure and throws in a playful spice of words like "susurrus" and "onomatopoeia" whose meanings are clear in their context. This is the latest addition to Mr. Pratchett's "Discworld" series. "Discworld," the author says, "...started out as a parody of all the fantasy that was around in the big boom of the early '80s, then turned into a satire on just about everything, and even I don't know what it is now." Each book stands well on its own, but is likely to lure the reader to read more "Discworld" books. Mr. Pratchett, who has received many prestigious awards, won the 2001 Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. 2003, Harper Collins Publishers,
Janet Crane Barley
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
When her brother is stolen by the Queen of the Fairies, Tiffany Aching sets out to rescue him with the help of the Wee Free Men, who are "six inches tall and mostly colored blue." The original book was published to great acclaim in 2003. This book in the "Discworld Series" has now been published in a gift book size, 8 by 10 ½ inches. There are many full-page illustrations throughout the book, some with half-page folds that show a continuation of the action, such as when Tiffany walks through the stone arch from her world into another. Player captures the humor and the tension in the scenes he illustrates. This is, indeed, a young adult novel, and I question the necessity of an illustrated edition. Pratchett's descriptive language needs no pictures. On the other hand, a teen who has difficulty reading the Nac Mac Feegle dialect might find this helpful, but will teens want to be seen with an oversize book? One of the illustrations shows a wee, blue red-haired man who "was definitely making a gesture with his hand." If parents of younger children were thinking of reading this aloud to them, they would not be comfortable with this in both text and illustration. It is a lovely edition but I do not know who the intended audience might be. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
Young Tiffany Aching knows lots about minding sheep, children, and the dairy, but until she finds herself forced to do battle with the malicious Queen of the Elves, she does not know anything at all about magic and witchcraft. Without warning one afternoon, various denizens of Fairyland invade the chalk country, home to generations of shepherds and Tiffany's only home. Keeping in mind the sturdy independence and shrewd insights of her beloved and recently deceased Granny Aching, Tiffany sets out to protect what is hers. She is aided in her progress through the nightmarish convolutions of Fairyland by her new acquaintances, the Wee Free Men. These six-inch-high, blue pictsies excel at fighting, thieving, and drinking. Believing themselves already to have died and gone to heaven, they are absolutely fearless and indomitable, if a bit likely to get sidetracked anytime an opportunity to indulge in one of their three favorite pastimes arises. Eventually, Tiffany fulfills her quest, but as with all good heroines, she learns more about herself than anything else and will not be able to return to a quiet life just making cheeses anymore. Fans of Pratchett's series will enjoy cameo appearances in the novel by several well-known Discworld witches, but for the most part the book stands on its own. Uncharacteristically for Pratchett, the novel is hobbled, however, by a predictable plot and redeemed only through its characters. Tiffany's staunch practicality is nicely balanced by the impulsive vigor of the Wee Free Men, and the dialogue is always lively. PLB
Megan Isaac <%ISBN%>0060012366
What a treat! SF writer Pratchett, author of the hilarious The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (winner of Britain's Carnegie Medal and an ALA Best Book for YAs; reviewed in KLIATT in November 2001), offers here a second novel for YAs that will delight fans of both fantasy and humor. Tiffany Aching is a young dairymaid living in rural chalk country, but she is also an exceptionally brave and clever girl with witch-like talents. When she unexpectedly sees a monster rise up out of the stream one day, she has the presence of mind to use her spoiled little brother, Wentworth, as bait and then bash the creature with a frying pan. When the dreadful Queen of Fairyland steals Wentworth, Tiffany boldly goes to rescue him, aided by a talking toad (formerly a lawyer) and the wee free men. These are six-inch-high blue men with names like Rob Anybody, Daft Wullie, and Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock, who live for stealing, drinking, and fighting, and who speak in broad Scottish accents. Tiffany is lucky to have them on her side, for Fairyland is a fearsome place, full of nightmares that have come to life. Tiffany triumphs in the end, of course, and like her revered grandmother, learns to "speak for that which has no voice" and to courageously defend the weak. Throughout, puns and zany humor abound. Tiffany is (unrealistically) said to be only nine years old, but this should not deter older readers in any way: the satiric sense of humor is perfect for anyone who enjoys The Princess Bride and the works of Douglas Adams. A wonderfully funny fantasy for all ages. (A Story of Discworld). KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior highschool students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, HarperCollins, 272p.,
School Library Journal
This new edition of the first book in Pratchett's excellent "Tiffany Aching" series (HarperTempest) features full-color illustrations that are true to the author's keen descriptions. Fans of the original won't find faults: Tiffany looks like a true nine-year-old, and the blue-skinned Wee Free Men seem appropriately fierce and funny at the same time. Three well-chosen foldouts show key plot transitions as Tiffany first sees the Wee Free Men, later steps into the fairy world, and ultimately unleashes her full powers. Plentiful spot illustrations and creative use of space show that the illustrator has clearly entered into the spirit of Tiffany's world. Significant words occasionally appear behind the text in light gray, appropriate for a girl who has read the dictionary (because "no one told her you weren't supposed to"). Line drawings of Wee Free Men frequently appear along page borders as they hang from, climb up, and occasionally steal the letters of the text. Recurring passages that tell the backstory of Tiffany's Granny, merely italicized in the original edition, are now cleverly highlighted by insets resembling yellowed paper. Pratchett's expertly written fantasy works fine without any pictures, but these attractive images are quite effective without overwhelming the words. For less sophisticated readers, the visual elements may serve as reference points to help them navigate the rich setting and cohesive but complex plot.-Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR
There will be upheavals in the human and fantasy worlds of elves and witches, with drastic consequences, and Tiffany, with only a frying pan for a weapon, is caught in the middle. In an effort to rescue her spoiled, candy-loving baby brother whom the Elf Queen has stolen with the temptation of endless sweets, Tiffany enlists the aid of the Wee Free Men. The baby's rescue is accomplished with unrelenting drama, large servings of Pratchett's ironic humor, and a unique cast of characters. This includes an imperfect heroine who has inherited "First Sight and Second Thoughts" and who feels guilty because she did not truly love her whiney brother. The Wee Free Men are six-inch-tall blue men with a robust enthusiasm for stealing, fighting, and drinking. Set in a chillingly unrecognizable "fairyland," this ingenious mélange of fantasy, action, humor, and sly bits of social commentary contains complex underlying themes of the nature of love, reality, and dreams. The Carnegie Medal-winner's fans will not be disappointed. (Fantasy. 12+)
From the Publisher
“Ethically challenging, beautifully orchestrated, philosophically opposed to the usual plot fixes of fantasy.”
“A passion for language, wordplay and puns bursts from the pages.”
-- Daily Telegraph
"Funny, terrifying and enlightening and quite, quite brilliant."
"Plenty to laugh at here, not least Pratchett's ability to put a 90 degree spin on the familiar."
"Teen witch Tiffany is one of [Terry Pratchett's] most formidable creations yet."
"Ingenious mélange of fantasy, action, humour, and sly bits of social commentary."
From the Hardcover edition.
“The humor and the danger will appeal to Discworld fans and also readers who relish J. K. Rowling’s Harry.”
The Horn Book
"Just the package to appeal to those who admire not just a brave heart but a quick comeback as well."
New York Times Book Review
“Like Celtic mythology fused with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’”
“A lovely romp for Pratchett fans of all ages.”
The Chicago Tribune
“Wonderful language, genuinely scary explorations, and a young girl whose growing up is believable and exciting.”
The Horn Book (starred review)
“Just the package to appeal to those who admire not just a brave heart but a quick comeback as well.”
“Exuberant and irresistible. Pratchett’s tale recalls a whole variety of texts in which underestimated heroines confront the forces of darkness—Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, Coraline of Neil Gaiman’s recent novel, Lyra Belacqua of The Golden Compass, Miss Bianca of The Rescuers, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“A smart retelling [that] delves into weighty issues but keeps its sense of dark humor.”
Wonderful language, genuinely scary explorations, and a young girl whose growing up is believable and exciting.”
Read an Excerpt
A Clang Well Done
Some things start before other things.
It was a summer shower but didn't appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm.
Miss Perspicacia Tick sat in what little shelter a raggedy hedge could give her and explored the universe. She didn't notice the rain. Witches dried out quickly.
The exploring of the universe was being done with a couple of twigs tied together with string, a stone with a hole in it, an egg, one of Miss Tick's stockings which also had a hole in it, a pin, a piece of paper and a tiny stub of pencil. Unlike wizards, witches learn to make do with a little.
The items had been tied and twisted together to make a . . . device. It moved oddly when she prodded it. One of the sticks seemed to pass right through the egg, for example, and came out the other side without leaving a mark.
'Yes,' she said quietly, as rain poured off the rim of her hat. 'There it is. A definite ripple in the walls of the world. Very worrying. There's probably another world making contact. That's never good. I ought to go there. But . . . according to my left elbow, there's a witch there already . . .'
'She'll sort it out, then,' said a small and, for now, mysterious voice from somewhere near her feet.
'No, it can't be right. That's chalk country over that way,' said Miss Tick. 'You can't grow a good witch on chalk. The stuff's barely harder than clay. You need good hard rock to grow a witch, believe me.' Miss Tick shook her head, sending raindrops flying. 'But my elbows are generally very reliable.'
'Why talk about it? Let's go and see,' said the voice. 'We're not doing very well around here, are we?'
That was true. The lowlands weren't good to witches. Miss Tick was making pennies by doing bits of medicine and misfortune-telling, and slept in barns most nights. She'd twice been thrown in ponds.
'I can't barge in,' she said. 'Not on another witch's territory. That never, ever works. But . . .' she paused, 'witches don't just turn up out of nowhere. Let's have a look . . .'
She pulled a cracked saucer out of her pocket, and tipped into it the rainwater that had collected on her hat. Then she took a bottle of ink out of another pocket and poured in just enough to turn the water black.
She cupped it in her hands to keep the raindrops out, and listened to her eyes.
Tiffany Aching was lying on her stomach by the river, tickling trout. She liked to hear them laugh. It came up in bubbles.
A little way away, where the river bank became a sort of pebble beach, her brother Wentworth was messing around with a stick, and almost certainly making himself sticky.
Anything could make Wentworth sticky. Washed and dried and left in the middle of a clean floor for five minutes, Wentworth would be sticky. It didn't seem to come from anywhere. He just got sticky. But he was an easy child to mind, provided you stopped him eating frogs.
There was a small part of Tiffany's brain that wasn't too certain about the name Tiffany. She was nine years old and felt that Tiffany was going to be a hard name to live up to. Besides, she'd decided only last week that she wanted to be a witch when she grew up, and she was certain Tiffany just wouldn't work. People would laugh.
Another and larger part of Tiffany's brain was thinking of the word 'susurrus'. It was a word that not many people have thought about, ever. As her fingers rubbed the trout under its chin she rolled the word round and round in her head.
Susurrus . . . according to her grandmother's dictionary, it meant 'a low soft sound, as of whispering or muttering'. Tiffany liked the taste of the word. It made her think of mysterious people in long cloaks whispering important secrets behind a door: susurrususssurrusss . . .
She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren't supposed to.
As she thought this, she realized that the happy trout had swum away. But something else was in the water, only a few inches from her face.
It was a round basket, no bigger than half a coconut shell, coated with something to block up the holes and make it float. A little man, only six inches high, was standing up in it. He had a mass of untidy red hair, into which a few feathers, beads and bits of cloth had been woven. He had a red beard, which was pretty much as bad as the hair. The rest of him that wasn't covered with blue tattoos was covered with a tiny kilt. And he was waving a fist at her, and shouting:
'Crivens! Gang awa' oot o' here, ye daft wee hinny! 'Ware the green heid!'
And with that he pulled at a piece of string that was hanging over the side of his boat and a second red-headed man surfaced, gulping air.
'Nae time for fishin'!' said the first man, hauling him aboard. 'The green heid's coming!'
'Crivens!' said the swimmer, water pouring off him. 'Let's offski!'
And with that he grabbed one very small oar and, with rapid back and forth movements, made the basket speed away.
'Excuse me!' Tiffany shouted. 'Are you fairies?'
But there was no answer. The little round boat had disappeared in the reeds.
Probably not, Tiffany decided.
Then, to her dark delight, there was a susurrus. There was no wind, but the leaves on the alder bushes by the river bank began to shake and rustle. So did the reeds. They didn't bend, they just blurred. Everything blurred, as if something had picked up the world and was shaking it. The air fizzed. People whispered behind closed doors . . .
The water began to bubble, just under the bank. It wasn't very deep here - it would only have reached Tiffany's knees if she'd paddled - but it was suddenly darker and greener and, somehow, much deeper . . .
She took a couple of steps backwards just before long skinny arms fountained out of the water and clawed madly at the bank where she had been. For a moment she saw a thin face with long sharp teeth, huge round eyes and dripping green hair like waterweed, and then the thing plunged back into the depths.
By the time the water closed over it Tiffany was already running along the bank to the little beach where Wentworth was making frog pies. She snatched up the child just as a stream of bubbles came around the curve in the bank. Once again the water boiled, the green-haired creature shot up, and the long arms clawed at the mud. Then it screamed, and dropped back into the water.
'I wanna go-a toy-lut!' screamed Wentworth.
Tiffany ignored him. She was watching the river with a thoughtful expression.
I'm not scared at all, she thought. How strange. I ought to be scared, but I'm just angry. I mean, I can feel the scared, like a red-hot ball, but the angry isn't letting it out . . .
'Wenny wanna wanna wanna go-a toy-lut!' Wentworth shrieked.
'Go on, then,' said Tiffany, absent-mindedly. The ripples were still sloshing against the bank.
There was no point in telling anyone about this. Everyone would just say 'What an imagination the child has' if they were feeling in a good mood, or 'Don't tell stories!' if they weren't.
She was still very angry. How dare a monster turn up in the river? Especially one so . . . so . . . ridiculous! Who did it think she was?
From the Trade Paperback edition.