[DWJ] New Introduction

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Thu Jan 1 05:53:01 EST 2009

Farah asked:

> Any chance of an English language summary, Gilli?

Alright then. The readers of my website would probably not have known that
Ursula and Diana are sisters, or be familiar with Diana's autobiography from
her official website ( http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/autobiog.htm ) so
much of what I wrote was just pointing out that there is a connection. For
all I know Ursula might have quite a different take on her childhood, but
the few words of introduction at the opening of her book seem to corroborate
rather than mitigate Diana's descriptions: they both even make reference to
the same incident in which Isobel was almost hung by accident as part of a
game. And I described a little of the atmosphere of "Time of the Ghost", for
which Diana drew on many of the same childhood memories of the three girls
left to their own devices, getting into loads of trouble and feeling all but
abandoned by their parents.

In Isobel's book (spoiler alert), the three witch's children go off to visit
the park, without their mum. All the squirrels and pigeons run and hide.
This resonates with Diana's memories of being considered a terrible trouble
maker. They then try to help a little girl rescue her toy boat from the
pond, by turning her into a frog, but they can't turn her back, so they
complicate the situation even further with more undoable magic. Up to this
point the littlest sister (Ursula was the youngest of her sisters) only
observed and laughed, but finally she steps in to help, using the only
"magic spell" she knows, which is to yell at the top of her breath for mum.
The witch then appears, Deus ex Machina, and sets everything straight.

I found the book sad because, judging by Diana's autobiography, the greatest
fiction in the story was the mum showing up and saving the day. In real life
the Jones' girls knew what it was like to be left to their own devices, knew
what it was like to be ostracised and to get into terrible trouble when they
only meant to be entertaining and helping out, but couldn't rely on their
mum to come help and support them.

In any case, it is quite a sweet, funny little picture book. My children
enjoyed it.

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