The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones
  

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Jonathan Stroud, November 2010 Guest Editor, celebrates a favourite children's author: "A generation before the arrival of a certain boy wizard, Diana Wynne Jones had already perfected the art of comic fantasies: stories in which ordinary children must contend with sudden incursions of magic into their everyday world. The Ogre Downstairs is one of her greatest books and blew me away when I first read it, aged about 10. Three children, Casper, Johnny and Gwinny, live miserably with their mother, their new stepfather (the ‘ogre’) and their two stepbrothers. One day the ogre brings home two strange chemistry sets as gifts for the warring siblings – and it isn’t long before magical chaos erupts. The brilliance of the book lies in the way it mixes the family’s very ordinary domestic problems with the anarchy of magic. Some of the set-pieces are extraordinary: no one who’s read about the plague of living toffee bars is ever likely to forget it!"

Synopsis

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones at her finest -- family feuds and chaos, magic with hilarious results and some of the most original ideas ever to appear between the covers of a book. Casper, Johnny and Gwinny get a big shock when their mother marries the Ogre. The Ogre is large and stern and not at all interested in children, although this doesn't prevent him from adding his own two awful sons, Douglas and Malcolm, to the family mix. Now the five children and two adults are squashed under the same roof, which can lead to only one thing -- war! Then the Ogre brings home the Chemistry Sets -- one for Malcolm and one for Johnny. Not that Johnny is impressed by this very obvious bribe. At least, not until they accidentally discover the flying lotion. Then the real fun begins!

Reviews

Praise for Diana Wynne Jones '[Wynne Jones] has a unique record of producing books you can't forget! Every book is different. And every book is likely to be in someone's top seven! I feel we need to acknowledge how lucky those of us are who grew up on her books, and to ensure subsequent generations enjoy the same intense and subtle pleasure.

!Her hallmarks include laugh-aloud humour, plenty of magic and imaginative array of alternate worlds. Yet, at the same time, a great seriousness is present in all of her novels, a sense of urgency that links Jones's most outrageous plots to her readers

! Publishers Weekly Truly magical -- guaranteed to leave you gasping -- even hotter than Potter The Bookseller Diana Wynne Jones could teach Stephen King and JK Rowling a thing or two ! [she] has a skill for inserting just the right amount of detail in her written words, leaving you satiated but not stuffed. SFX

About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones

Reknowned children's science fiction and fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones died in March 2011. Click here to read about the life of this author in The Guardian obituary.

Diana was born in August 1934 in London, where she had a chaotic and unsettled childhood against the background of World War II. The family moved around a lot, finally settling in rural Essex. As children, Diana and her two sisters were deprived of a good, steady supply of books by a father, 'who could beat Scrooge in a meanness contest'. So, armed with a vivid imagination and an insatiable quest for good books to read, she decided that she would have to write them herself.

Her higher education began in 1953 when she went up to St Anne's College Oxford, and attended lectures by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. It was here she met her husband, John A Burrow, Professor of English at Bristol University. They married in 1956 and had three sons.

Diana Wynne Jones first conjured up the enigmatic and embroidered dressing-gowned enchanter Chrestomanci in 1977. The adventures in his magical worlds – for, as every budding sorcerer knows there are many series of parallel worlds – continue to enthral readers all over the world.

'Charmed Life', the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children's Books. Diana was runner-up for the Children's Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. In 1999, she won two major fantasy awards: the children's section of the Mythopeic Award in the USA, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK – which is awarded by the British Fantasy Society to individuals or organisations who have made a significant impact on fantasy. JK Rowling was runner-up on both occasions. Diana was also shortlisted for The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which rewards the best in contemporary children's and young adult literature from all over the world, in 2010.

Meeting Diana you wouldn't be surprised to find she had second sight (though she hadn't as far as I know). You'd think it quite natural that she should be a writer of fantasy, a connoisseur of witchcraft, a creator of parallel worlds. For her, magic wasn't something that floats about unrooted in human nature. 'Things we are accustomed to regard as myth or fairy story are very much present in people's lives.' She said, 'Nice people behave like wicked stepmothers. Every day.'

Diana on her writing:

"I think I write the kind of books I do because the world suddenly went mad when I was five years old. In late August 1939, on a blistering hot day, my father loaded me and my three-year-old sister, Isobel, into a friend’s car and drove to my grandparents’ manse in Wales.

" 'There’s going to be a war,' he explained. He went straight back to London, where my mother was expecting her third baby any day. We were left in the austere company of Mam and Dad (as we were told to call them). Dad, who was a moderator of the Welsh Nonconformist Chapels, was a stately patriarch; Mam was a small browbeaten lady who seemed to us to have no character at all. We were told that she was famous in her youth for her copper hair, her wit, and her beauty, but we saw no sign of any of this."

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Book Info

Format

Paperback
256 pages
Interest Age: From 9

Author

Diana Wynne Jones
More books by Diana Wynne Jones

Author's Website

www.dianawynnejones.com

Publisher

HarperCollins Children's Books an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date

1st December 2003

ISBN

9780007154692

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