When you have an author as good as Terry Pratchett writing for children, you expect that the result will be a novel of great invention, assured comic timing and a generally all-round highly readable fantasy tour de force
. Readers of The Wee Free Men
will not be disappointed. After winning the prestigious Carnegie Medal award for his previous story of Discworld for younger readers, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
, Pratchett has followed up with another irresistibly entertaining adventure.
Miss Perspicacia Tick, a witch of some renown, is worried about a ripple in the walls of the universe--probably another world making contact. Which is not good. This errant activity is centred on some chalk country--where traditionally good witches simply do not grow well. Fortunately, Miss Tiffany Aching of Home Farm on The Chalk, nine years old, misunderstood and yearning for excitement, wants to be a witch and has just proved herself to be of great potential by whacking a big Green Monster from the river with a huge frying pan while using her annoying younger brother as bait. Miss Tick is impressed. So, after travelling to the chalky downs at once and dispensing some stop gap advice to Tiffany about holding the fort until she gets back with more help, Miss Tick is off.
Any hesitation Tiffany may have had about the seriousness of the situation expires when the Queen of the fairies kidnaps her younger brother. With the help of a talking frog, loaned by Miss Tick, and an army of thieving, warmongering, nippy, boozy wee free men called the Nac Mac Feegle (who used to work for the Queen but rebelled), Tiffany sets off rescue her kin.
There's humour at every turn, and the situations that follow are both wonderfully dramatic and preposterously unreal. Pratchett really is the master of his genre and it's difficult to imagine a more entertaining read. (Age 10 and over) --John McLay
--This text refers to an alternate
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-Tiffany, an extremely competent nine-year-old, takes care of her irritating brother, makes good cheese on her father's farm, and knows how to keep secrets. When monsters from Fairyland invade her world and her brother disappears, Tiffany, armed only with her courage, clear-sightedness, a manual of sheep diseases, and an iron frying pan, goes off to find him. Her search leads her to a showdown with the Fairy Queen. It is clear from the beginning that Tiffany is a witch, and a mighty powerful one. The book is full of witty dialogue and a wacky cast of characters, including a toad (formerly a lawyer). Much of the humor is supplied by the alcohol-swilling, sheep-stealing pictsies, the Wee Free Men of the title, who are six-inches high and speak in a broad Scottish brogue. (The fact that readers will not understand some of the dialect won't matter, as Tiffany doesn't understand either, and it is all part of the joke.) These terrors of the fairy world are Tiffany's allies, and she becomes their temporary leader as they help her search for the Fairy Queen. Once the story moves into Fairyland it becomes more complex, with different levels of dream states (or, rather, nightmares) and reality interweaving. Tiffany's witchcraft eschews the flamboyant tricks of wizards; it is quiet, inconspicuous magic, grounded in the earth and tempered with compassion, wisdom, and justice for common folk. Not as outrageous and perhaps not as inventive as The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (HarperCollins, 2001), The Wee Free Men has a deeper, more human interest and is likely to have wider appeal. All in all, this is a funny and thought-provoking fantasy, with powerfully visual scenes and characters that remain with readers. A glorious read.Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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