Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wild Robert

Wild Robert
by Diana Wynne Jones
Recommended Ages: 10+

This is one of those all-too-brief, magical stories for young readers that leave one regretting there wasn't more. It covers just the first day of what promises to be a whole series of adventures shared by a lonely girl named Heather and the mischievous, magical friend named in the title. It leaves what happens afterward entirely to the reader's imagination.

Heather lives with her parents in the stately castle of an extinct branch of the nobility, now a museum owned by the British Trust. Her parents manage the estate and guide tours, while money from tourists enables them to preserve the place. But Heather only wants a bit of privacy. One day, in her frustration, she cries out for Wild Robert to help her - thereby inadvertently summoning a 17th-century sorcerer who has lain trapped inside a mound on the castle grounds.

Until the sun goes down, Wild Robert is free to roam his old stomping grounds, casting spells on tourists and staff, while Heather tries to catch him up on what he has missed and restrain him from wreaking too much havoc. Meantime, she scrambles to learn just what it is that keeps Wild Robert tied to that mound in the woods. Just as it's starting to make sense to her, the adventure trails off in a classic demonstration of "leaving them wanting more."

I have read, reviewed, and loved many books by the late Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011). Besides the Dalemark, Derkholm, Chrestomanci, Howl's Castle and Magids series, she wrote loads of stand-alone novels majoring in fantasy for young readers, including several that I count among my favorite books of all time. Just listing the ones I haven't read yet, she is also the author of Changeover, Four Grannies, Chair Person, A Sudden Wild Magic, Everard's Ride, Puss in Boots, Stealer of Souls, Enna Hittims, The Game, Enchanted Glass, Earwig and the Witch, and the posthumously-published The Islands of Chaldea, co-written by her sister Ursula Jones. And if that list makes it seem like I've neglected her work, check out this list of the ones I've read.

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