There's a ripple in the walls of the world. When nine-year-old Tiffany Aching is warned away from a sharp-toothed green-headed monster by two tiny red-headed blue-skinned men in a boat, it seems that she may be the new witch of the lowlands, for the Nac Mac Feegle, the most feared of all the fairy races, wouldn't make themselves known to just anybody. Tiffany lives in the country, a place called the Chalk, where she is a dairymaid on her family's farm. Since Granny Aching died two years ago, Tiffany will be taking her place as the witch. Not that she knows this or anything. It's just that strange things are beginning to happen on the Chalk, and Tiffany has no choice but to deal with them.
What would you do if a monster with eyes the size of soup plates and huge sharp teeth and claws rose out of the stream and threatened your sticky little two-year-old brother, Wentworth? What Tiffany does is to go home and look in a book of Faerie Tales that once belonged to Granny Aching, and where she locates a picture of the creature-it's called Jenny Green-Teeth, by the way. Then she takes a huge frying pan from the kitchen and heads back to the stream. Upon hearing sticky Wentworth howl, "I wanna go-a toy-lut!, that monster rises, screaming, out of the water, heading straight for the little boy, but Tiffany is ready, and hits it with her frying pan. "It was a good clang, with the oiyoiyoiyoioioioinnnnggggg that is the mark of a clang well done."
Down in the reeds, small voices whisper: "Crivens, Wee Bobby, did yer no' see that?" "Aye. We'd better offski an' tell the Big Man we've found the hag." Hag is the wee free man's word for witch. You might be thinking all witches are bad. Well, there's nothing bad about our Tiffany. She's clearly got First Sight and Second Thoughts, a powerful combination, especially in one so young. When you read this book alood, I mean aloud, ye'll need to be thinking aboot how the Wee Free Men should talk. They're pictsies-no, not pixies, pictsies-those fierce little blue men, the Nac Mac Feegles, as the talking toad informs Tiffany, and they're there to help her. You see, another world is colliding with this one. All the monsters are coming back. There's no one to stop them. Except Tiffany.
This is a challenging but exhilarating read-aloud for teachers and parents, with much to sort out. Put together a dictionary of the wonderful, colorful language spoken by the Wee Free Men, and practice reading their dialogue aloud in a good Scottish brogue. Projects could include a portrait gallery and description of the heroes, villains, and many creatures Tiffany encounters, and maps of the Chalk country where Tiffany lives and of Fairyland, the magic world of bad dreams, ruled by the Queen. A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith are the sequels, continuing Tiffany's saga.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: FAIRIES. FANTASY. HUMOR. WITCHES.
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up