Stumbling Upon Diana Wynne Jones

I have somehow had the great misfortune to miss Diana Wynne Jones-related blogging events in the past–so I was thrilled to be in time for Diana Wynne Jones Days!  Thank you to Charlotte, who mentioned it a few weeks ago and tipped me off about it.  DWJ Days is a celebration of all things Diana Wynne Jones which started April 12th, featuring bloggers sharing their experiences with the wonderful, magical books of Diana Wynne Jones.

It’s a little complicated to explain how my reading of Diana Wynne Jones began, because I managed to stumble across her for the first time–twice.  Maybe three times.  The first first time, I happened across Witch Week on my library’s shelves.  I don’t know how old I was, only that I was young enough to have no context at all for the Guy Fawkes references (he isn’t heavily featured in American history books for kids!)  Considering that lack of crucial knowledge, I’m almost surprised by how much I loved the book.  I think the world-similar-but-different-from-ours concept still seemed new and exciting, I enjoyed the magical mix-ups, and I was intrigued by the boarding school setting, even if it was a bleak boarding school.

My memory of what I read that long ago has gone vague, but I think I read Witch Week at least two or three times.  And…I didn’t think about looking for anything else by the author.  I’m almost sure I also read and loved The Spellcoats at some point around this age, but I have no memory of connecting the two books at all.  I had no idea that both books were part of series, or that this (very prolific!) author had written so many other books.

Years go by.  During high school, I wrote about a character named Richard Samuel Jones.  I was still very much a browser at the library when it came to picking up new books, and there came a day when nothing on the shelves seemed to be appealing to me.  So, on a whim, I decided to go see if anyone named Jones had written anything interesting.  I found the Diana Wynne Jones shelf, and picked up something, I don’t know what but maybe A Tale of Time City.  Whatever it was, I loved it, and this time I had the good sense to keep looking for more books by the same author!

I eventually realized I knew The Spellcoats when I read an omnibus of the Dalemark Quartet, and discovered that I had already read Witch Week when I made my way through the Crestomanci books.  It turned out this “new” author was an old favorite all along…once I put the pieces together!

It was years more before I ever realized how important Diana Wynne Jones is in children’s fantasy.  I think it was really only when she died, and suddenly all the book blogs I follow started talking about her, and all the authors I follow turned out to have known her personally, that I really got it. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t know–because she was “my” author that I happened to stumble on in the silliest of ways.

And I mostly went on stumbling over her books.  I have too many books on the To Be Read list to browse much anymore, but I was a browser for years, and on days when I couldn’t find anything, I could be sure of discovering something by wandering over to the J shelf.

Part of the fun of Diana Wynne Jones Days is that Firebird is reissuing several of her books with new definitive editions.  Considering A Tale of Time City is one of my favorite books that I somehow don’t own, I may need to pick up a copy with that lovely cover up there.  Check out the list to see if they’re reissuing your favorite!

I’ve long since lost count of how many Diana Wynne Jones books I’ve read.  However, I’m a list-maker, so I can look it up for you–twenty-seven!  All in all, I think it’s a good thing I didn’t give Richard Samuel Jones the name Smith instead.  Maybe there’s some wonderful author named Smith…but it’s hard to believe it could be anyone who would top Diana Wynne Jones.

6 thoughts on “Stumbling Upon Diana Wynne Jones

  1. dianem57

    That’s a wonderful way to honor a great author. Very clever idea to bring together her legions of fans.

  2. Thanks for reminding me that she exists! I have just read Howl’s moving castle, but now I can’t wait to sink my teeth into another one of her novels!

  3. We had very similar DWJ “discovery” experiences! The book that tipped me off to the “wait, I HAVE read this before” was The Lives of Christopher Chant, but I’m also suspicious (but less certain) I’d read Witch Week back then, too (and also had no idea about the Guy Fawkes thing– maybe why I remembered it less clearly? Too much went over my head?). I read The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in between those childhood readings and my proper “Discovery”-of-a-new-favorite-author as an adult, and I remember thinking, well, I’ve HEARD of Diana Wynne Jones, I MUST have read something by her, but I couldn’t remember what, and didn’t think to find more for another few years!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who had such a complicated discovery story. Sometimes I wonder if I’m somehow a second-class fan because I didn’t obsessively seek out all her other works in childhood and ended up not remembering the ones I DID read. But that’s a silly thing to think! I know how passionate I am about her NOW and that’s all that matters! Glad you found the Jones, section, too. It was calling you.

    1. I don’t think we’re lesser fans for having largely missed her in our childhoods…it just means we come at her differently! And for me at least, it means I still have new-to-me books to seek out!

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