I have always wanted to travel, but have had very few opportunities to do so. Since I’ve been married I’ve done some traveling, but not yet outside of the United States. Since I was small I’ve wanted to go to Europe. It first started when I found one of my mom’s bandanas decorated with artistic representations of buildings in Venice, Italy. When I asked her about it she explained that it had been a gift from her brother. She also explained to me that Venice was a city that was built partly on the water and it was common for people to travel by boat to get from place to place. I was fascinated by the idea and I became determined to one day go to Venice for myself.
Ever since then my desire to travel has grown to include several other countries around the world including England, Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Egypt (maybe when it becomes a little safer), China, and more. My dream would be to take a six-month tour through Europe. So finding a book that took place in one of these many places wasn’t that hard. Heck, half the books I’ve read would fit in this category.
The Lives of Christopher Chant by Dianna Wynne Jones takes place in England where magic has a powerful presence and Christopher has a very rare gift: he has nine lives. These nine lives give him other abilities; abilities that, if the wrong people were to find out about him, would be used for great evil. Now, with forces moving quickly to bring Christopher to their side, he will have to decide who he can trust to help him master his newfound abilities and prevent disaster.
Dianna Wynne Jones is a phenomenal young adult writer for the fantasy genre. Her books are a brilliant combination of unique creativity and literary skill that present the audience with a story that invigorates the imagination and proves that there are new things to be brought to the fantasy world.
I have always loved the way Jones adds a comedic side to her stories. Most often found in her characters, she makes them realistic in that they are often as ignorant and misguided as we can be during our daily lives. Often I found myself yelling at the main character. And I don’t mean yelling in my head; I was actually yelling at the book. Christopher’s perspective of certain things was very fitting for someone of his age (around eleven or twelve), which is to say that he was unreliable in assessing the importance of a situation. He felt angry, betrayed, lost, and alone; mix those together and you have a highly defiant and unpleasant child.
The ability to make your audiences elicit strong emotional reactions towards your characters is a gift. Authors who can do this inevitably find themselves categorized among the master storytellers of the literary world. When you read Jones’ books you aren’t just watching the story unfold, you’re in the story. While reading you can feel the solitude of Christopher’s life, the cold of Chrestomanci Castle, and the mysterious allure of the Place Between. I want to travel to England one day and this book, though not a real substitute for travel, gave me a taste of what England is like. I’m not naïve enough to think that the setting of the book and the real place will be he same, but the spirit of England was captured very well.
I’ve grown to appreciate the endings of Jones’ stories. The way she wraps everything up so nicely used to make it feel like a cliché, but she somehow it fits with her style. After you read her books and you find out how everything works out for everyone you know that you wouldn’t have had it any other way. It is reminiscent of the way Jane Austin ended Pride and Prejudice; with so many characters you have come to know throughout the story you would feel tricked if you weren’t to know what happened to everyone.
Her unique style and simple approach to storytelling captures a bit of what I have found to be missing from many books today: the innocent feeling of stepping into the unknown. It’s becoming an epidemic among children to dislike reading and I believe (and I’m not alone in this belief) that children dislike books the same way they dislike food they have never tried. It isn’t that the notion disgusts them through previous experience, but rather that they have both learned to dislike books (and certain foods) through their parents and others who have given them the impression that there is something about them they should dislike. That and they have not yet found a book to capture their interest. This book, if given the chance, could be the book to help someone find a passion for reading.