Ben and I have watched the animated Japanese classic Howl's Moving Castle twice and enjoyed it immensely. The movies of Hayao Miyazaki are unlike any other animated films, featuring very strong and interesting characters (particularly females) and out-of-this-world moments. When we came across the book in our library, we were very curious to see how it would compare to the film, and what questions it would answer. While we were reading it together, our family was actually reading three books by Diana Wynne Jones at the same time! Here is our first father/son co-review.
Howl's Moving Castle is such a unique book that I would actually recommend seeing the movie first if possible. The two are actually very different, but the movie gives some context and imagery that can make it easier to grasp the story, particularly the moving castle itself.
The book tells the story of Sophie, the oldest of three sisters, who works in a hat shop until she is placed under a spell by the Witch of the Waste. The spell turns Sophie into an old woman and causes her to flee her home. She eventually comes to live in the moving castle with the infamous young wizard Howl and an interesting cast of characters. It seems nearly everyone is under a spell of some sort, and the book tells the story of each character's attempt to be free.
As in the movie, there are any number of odd things going on, but the characters shrug their shoulders and accept the strangeness, without investing a lot of energy in trying to understand it all. There are many delightful moments in the book, but to truly enjoy Howl's Moving Castle, I recommend you do the same.
This was a good book. Although there are some very strange parts in this novel, it is still fairly easy to understand. You should not read this book to a younger child, because it does have a few scary parts. If you want to read this book, you need a large attention span, as the writing is very complex, and sometimes takes a while to digest.
This book is quite different from the Dianna Wynne Jones books we've read so far, but still has all of her charm and wit.