The Ogre Downstairs

The Ogre Downstairs

by Diana Wynne Jones


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Chemical Warfare?

Casper, Johnny, and Gwinny are sure they'll never be happy again when their mother marries Jack, who is as mean as an ogre. To make matters worse, two obnoxious stepbrothers, Malcolm and Douglas, move in as well. No one — except the parents — seems happy. But when Jack gives a chemistry set to each group of kids, bigger problems take over. These are, it turns out, not your average chemicals. In one hilarious experiment after another, the kids discover they can fly, switch bodies with one another, and even disappear. If only they could figure out how to undo all of this! Are one combustible stepfamily and two explosive chemistry sets a formula for disaster?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064473507
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/28/2002
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Caspar came into the hall one afternoon with a bag of books on one shoulder and a bag of football clothes on the other and saw his brother carrying a large square parcel. “What's that?” he said.

“It's the Ogre,” Johnny said gloomily. “He's trying to bribe me now.”

“Bribe you to do what?” said Caspar.

“Be a sweet little boy, I expect,” said Johnny with the utmost disgust. “Let's open it before Malcolm gets in, shall we?”

Caspar, very intrigued, and also quite unreasonably annoyed that Johnny should get a present and not he, led the way to the sitting room door and prepared to sling his bag of books across the room into the red armchair. The bag had almost left his hand, when he saw a large pair of feet sticking out from beyond this chair. Above the chair back was an open newspaper and, below the newspaper, Caspar could just see a section of grizzled black hair. The Ogre himself was in possession. Caspar caught the bag at the top of its swing and retreated on tiptoe.

“He's in there,” he mouthed to Johnny.

“Blast!” said Johnny, none too softly. “I thought he was in his study. Let's go upstairs.”

They hurried up the stairs, Johnny hugging his parcel, Caspar lugging his two bags. Since Caspar was so laden and Johnny, though smaller, a great deal more hefty and very eager to open his parcel besides, their progress was noisy, and shook the house a little. It was the kind of thing the Ogre could be trusted to notice. His voice roared from beneath.

“Will you boys be quiet!”

They sighed. Johnny said something under his breath. They finished climbing on tiptoe, at half-speed. Both knew, by instinct,that it would be unwise to provoke the Ogre further. So far, he had not hit any of them, but they had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before he did, and that it was an experience to be put off as long as possible.

“He's allergic to noise,” said Johnny, as they reached their bedroom.

“And boys,” Caspar said bitterly.

The Ogre was their stepfather, and he had been married to their mother for a month now. All three children had found it the most miserable month of their lives. They alternated between wishing themselves dead and wishing the Ogre was.

“I don't see why she had to marry him. We were quite all right as we were,” Johnny said, as he had said several hundred times before. They halted, according to custom, at the door of their room, for Caspar to hurl his bags one after another onto his bed. Then they set out to wade through comics, books, records, toffee-bars, and sixteen different construction kits, to the one clear piece of floor.

The two boys had disliked the Ogre on sight, despite their mother's glowing description of him. He was large and black-browed and not at all interested in children. He was divorced. His first wife had left him years ago and gone to live abroad -- and Caspar's opinion was that he did not blame her, considering what the Ogre and his two sons were like. Their own mother was a widow. Their father had been killed in an air-crash six years before. And, as Johnny kept saying, they had all got on very nicely until the Ogre came along. Of course, they had pretended to their mother -- not to hurt her feelings -- that they did not think too badly of the Ogre. But, after his second visit -- when they were still thinking of him as Mr. McIntyre -- their mother had said she was actually going to marry him. Quite appalled, they had escaped to the kitchen as soon as they could, to hold a council of war about him.

“I think he's frightful,” Caspar had said frankly. “And I bet he listens to commercial pop. He's bound to, with low eyebrows like that.” Since then, alas, they had discovered that the Ogre listened to nothing but news, and required absolute silence while he did so.

“Stepfathers are always frightful,” Johnny had agreed, with the air of one who had got through several hundred.

“What do they do?” Gwinny asked nervously.

“Everything. They're perfect Ogres. They eat you as soon as look at you,” Johnny had answered. Upon which Gwinny had looked tearful and said she would run away if Mr. McIntyre was an Ogre. And he was. They all knew it now.

As Johnny put down his parcel in the clear patch and pushed aside a bank of other things to make more room, Gwinny came in. “Mummy thought she heard you,” she said. “Oh, what's that?”

“A present from the Ogre, for some reason,” Johnny said. “He gave it to me in the hall just now and said it might keep me out of mischief.”

Gwinny had been looking offended, and a trifle puzzled. The Ogre could not be said to be friendly with any of them, but, of all three, it was Johnny he liked least. But this explanation relieved her mind. “Oh, that kind of present,” she said, and even smiled.

Caspar shot a sharp look at her. Gwinny, perhaps from being the youngest and a girl, sometimes showed a regrettable tendency to like the Ogre. It was Gwinny who had first met him, in fact. She had tried to go to the library by herself and had got off the bus at quite the wrong stop. She had wandered for an hour, miserable and lost, with tears trickling down her face, and people passing right and left, taking no notice of her condition whatsoever. Then the Ogre had stopped and asked her what was the matter. And Caspar conceded that Gwinny had a right to be grateful...

The Ogre Downstairs. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Ogre Downstairs 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
flemmily on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The ending of this book is superb. Other than that it's also a great story about step-families and misunderstanding. I think I didn't care for many of the characters the first time I read it, but by now I love them all dearly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a big favorite of mine and my older brother's when we were young. It was the most imaginative and frankly bizarre book we had ever read. I'm sure it sparked my love of science fiction! But the dynamics of the family relationships were interesting, too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such a GREAT book, its a story about three kids who get a chemistry set from their not-so-nice stepfather, but they find out that their two not-so-nice stepbrothers got the same chemistry set. Seperatly (and together) they get into some trouble from flying to invisibilty to switching bodies! Sound exciting? READ IT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Casper, Johnny, and Gwinny get a new step dad, everything goes nuts. Douglas and Malcolm also move in. When the ogre (the stepdad) gives each group of children a chemistry set that everybody thinks is normal, everything in the world turns around and the children can do some pretty weird things like: Turn invisible or switch bodies. I would really recommend this book.