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This novel for young readers is full of Diana Wynne Jones's signature humor, inventiveness, and charm.
While trying to get away from the tourists visiting the stately home where her parents are caretakers, Heather accidentally summons a mischievous 350-year-old youth with magical powers and nothing is ever the same again.
Heather was in a bad mood. Her bicycle was broken, right at the start of the summer holidays, too, and this meant that she could not ride down to see her friend Janine in the village. It was five miles to the village. Either Heather could walk, five miles there and five miles back, or she could stay at home. And home was not really home -- or not in the summer anyway. Heather lived in a stately home called Castlemaine because her mum and dad were curators there.
In summer, every day at eleven-thirty, the car park at the side of the old stables began to fill with cars, vans, and coaches, and tourists climbed out of them and spread all over the house and gardens. There was almost nowhere that was private. And Heather's mum and dad were far too busy showing people around the house, or coping with sudden emergencies, to be any company for Heather.
That day Heather made a mistake about the time. She looked up from the book she had been gloomily reading since breakfast and thought the clock said ten-thirty. Good, she thought. That would give her an hour to get to a really private hiding place before the tourists came. She thought she would go to the very top of the old castle tower because that was supposed to be unsafe for crowds. There she could read her book or look out over the hills and woody valleys while she ate her lunch. It was not as good as being with Janine, but it was not a bad place on a fine day. You could not see the tourists from there and hardly even hear them.
But first she had to get some lunch. Heather went to the small kitchen, behind the huge whitewashed kitchen the tourists were shown, and opened the fridge there.
"Bother!" she said. If she wanted sandwiches, there was a choice between tuna fish and Spam, and they were out of tomatoes again. To get tomatoes, or fruit, she would have to go to the gardens and be polite to surly old Mr. McManus, the gardener. Heather decided she could not face his bad temper. She would go to Mrs. Mimms, who kept the tourist shop, and ask her for crisps or biscuits instead. She hated Mr. McManus even more than she hated Spam.
She made herself six tuna sandwiches and put them in a bag. She was just fetching her book from the big tourist kitchen when voices rang out somewhere near. She heard the grind and crunch of wheels through the thick white walls.
Heather said. She ran out into the passage that overlooked the parking space. Through the diamond-pane windows there she could see quite a number of cars parked already and at least one coach. Another coach lumbered in as she looked, and people carrying cameras jumped down from it. "Why have they all come so early?" Heather said, still not realizing she had made a mistake with the time.
She knew she couldn't get to Mrs. Mimms's shop before those people from the coach crowded into it to buy ice creams. She set off for the tower at once instead, by the easy back way that brought her out on a high gallery looking down on the round room beside the stone steps up to the tower. But she was too late. Even before she got to the gallery, Heather heard the shuffle of tourists' feet. Her father's voice rang out.
"We are now in part of the old castle. It was built by the first baron, Hugh Toller, early in the twelfth century. These stone stairs behind me lead to the watchtower built by Hugh Toller's son William."
Heather leaned over the rail of the balcony and looked down on packed heads with the faces all turned toward Dad. Dad was talking away, posed with one foot on the tower steps. Heather was in time to see him reach out expertly and grab the boy who had tried to sneak behind the red rope across the steps.
"No. sonny, you can't go up. The tower's unsafe, and we can't get insurance. By 1150 the castle was already quite large ... "
Heather turned away. "Sheep," she muttered. "Beastly sheep in the way." She knew Dad was quite capable of going on talking until Mum or one of the other guides came along with the next party. She was cut off from the tower. And by now the coach party would be filling the entrance hall and waiting to be taken up the main stairs.
Heather ducked down a side passage and ran. If she went through the Long Gallery and the Feud Room, she might be able to make it to the back stairs before any tourists did. She raced along the polished floor of the Long Gallery, where white reproachful faces of dead Tollers stared out of thick gilt frames at her. She was just going to turn into the Feud Room when feet shuffled again. This time Heather heard her mother's voice.
"We are now coming into the small gallery known as the Feud Room. This is because the portraits of the Tollers on your left and the portraits of the Franceys on your right are those of the two branches of the family who kept up a long and hostile quarrel for nearly one hundred years ..."
"More beastly sheep!" Heather said. She turned and looked at the big clock above the picture of Sir Francis Toller bowing to Queen Elizabeth I. It said five to twelve. She understood her mistake now.
"Oh. bother!" she said. "I hate tourists! I hate living at Castlemaine!"
She went back through the Long Gallery and down the main stairs. Halfway down, she met the next party of tourists coming up. It was like wading in a stream with the current the wrong way ...Wild Robert. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted May 13, 2013
Diana Wynne Jones is the best. The story is short, but there is so much action and fun. In simple words the story is well told. I would love for there to be a continuation. I recommend Wild Robert to anyone. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time. I'm glad I finally got it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.