Narrator: Kristin Atherton
Length: 8 hrs 57 mins
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Release date: December 2019
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ was first published in the UK back in 1986. I was 11 at the time, and really wish someone had told me about it back then. Not that it would have helped much, since I don’t suppose it was transcribed into braille, and the audio version wasn’t released until I was a somewhat less youthful 44. All I know for certain is that it was just the kind of book that my el11 year old self was crying out for. I’d recently been introduced to the BBC’s radio dramatisation of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and was simply gagging for anything containing a bit of magic and sorcery.
The story concerns a gentle, dutiful young woman who, after being transformed into an old hag by an evil witch, ends up in the clutches of the dreaded wizard Howl. Fortunately for her, Howl turns out to be not as bad as his reputation led her to believe. The witch, on the other hand, is very bad indeed, and she has plans for all of them that are simply diabolical.
This is gentle, well crafted, children’s literature at it’s best. It is funny, sweet, moving, and funny again. With fire demons, walking scarecrows, and the finest hats imaginable, listening to this little gem really made my day. I got a bit worried around the three-quarter mark when all looked lost, but after a steadying cup of tea and a couple of chocolate biscuits I was able to continue the ride.
If you think you are too old for kids books, then I’m here to tell you that you’re not. The kids and young adult shelves offer some of the purest, top quality stories out there. This one is no exception.
Diana Wynne Jones sadly died in 2011. It is a tragic shame that she didn’t get to see how the audio version of this fantastic book has brought joy and laughter into the lives of a whole new generation of kids and adults alike. I’m very glad I finally got to hear it and would encourage anyone with a taste for fun fantasy to give it a go.