When I grow up, I want to become…a novelist

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By Jenny Bui / February 28, 2017

A book recommendation – Howl’s Moving Castle

Do you remember what you told your parents when they asked you as a kid what you wanted to become? I always wanted to become a novelist. I loved stories and the worlds that you plunge into once you open a book. The book that I am recommending in this article is about growing up, leaving home and finding your place in the world. Howl’s Moving Castle by British writer Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1986 by Greenwillow Books of New Yorkis, is set in a world where invisibility cloaks and seven-league boots exist and where scarecrows come alive, yet so many of the topics dealt with in the book are relatable to our present time and problems.

Plot summary:

The book is set in the magical kingdom of Ingari. After the death of her father, Sophie, the eldest child of a wealthy hat maker is forced to work in her father’s shop in which she finds no pleasure. Her father left behind a huge debt that Sophie, her sisters and her stepmother Fanny now have to deal with. Being the eldest of three children, however, Sophie knows that she can’t expect much of life and that she is doomed to fail when the three set out to find their luck. Soon enough, she is turned into an old woman by a witch and when she decided that it can’t get any worse, she finds herself becoming the housekeeper of the evil wizard Howl who is known for eating the hearts of young girls. Howl turns out to be a lazy good-for-nothing who is doing everything he can to avoid work and taking on responsibility. On top of that, Sophie has to lift several curses, including her own, and save a king.

Why is this book a good choice for children and young adults?

It might not be a good choice for young children who may be confused by the complex plot, however, I think this book is particularly interesting for young adults who are struggling with becoming an adult and who are trying to find their place in life. Sophie is a strong protagonist who teaches us that, although destiny may seem predetermined (as it might seem predetermined nowadays by social class and education), you have to try your best to reach your personal goals in life, nevertheless. The curse that impedes her from telling anyone about her problems might relate to the helplessness young adults feel when there is no one they can turn to when they are having a hard time coping with life.

Howl, on the other hand, epitomises the struggle of becoming an adult and taking on responsibility.

This book has been made into an animated film by Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki which was released in 2004.

Although not very famous outside English-speaking countries, this book remains an all-time favourite of mine and I recommend it to everyone who needs a bit of magic in their life.

About the author

Jenny Bui


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