The DWJ Project: Witch’s Business

Originally published as Wilkins’ Tooth. I don’t know why the title got changed, unless it was because some marketing person thought the original might be mistaken for a mundane story about Wilkins going to the dentist.

This was Diana Wynne Jones’ first fantasy novel for children (her second novel at all, after Changeover, which I can’t find for less than eighty dollars and may never end up reading.) In it, a pair of children whose pocket-money has been stopped set up a revenge business — Own Back, Ltd. — but run into trouble when the local crackpot turns out to be a witch who feels they’re intruding on her territory.

The premise feels pretty standard for a children’s book, whether fantastical or otherwise — much moreso than her later novels do. The protagonists sort of hope somebody will hire them to get revenge on the local bully, but instead the bully hires/blackmails them to get revenge on his behalf. Their efforts to carry out the job lead to more trouble, things snowball, the kids hit a point where they owe too much to too many people, etc. It’s pleasant reading, but not memorable; I’m not surprised that I’ve never gone back to re-read this one.

The one almost-memorable part has to do with the witch and the Adams family (not to be confused with the Addams family). Another author might have stayed with the simple plot of escalating problems, but DWJ hints at a deeper layer that created many of those problems in the first place. Unfortunately, she only hints: we never get much detail about why the Adamses were cursed, etc. I wish there had been more of that, to underpin the fun with something a little more substantial. But I’ll have more thoughts about that when I report back on The Ogre Downstairs.

0 Responses to “The DWJ Project: Witch’s Business”

  1. batwrangler

    Have you tried interlibrary loan for Changeover? I once got a rare, hard to find, and expensive children’s book through ILL — the copy I ended up reading came from the Library of Congress which was a bit of a surprise.

    • Marie Brennan

      I figured I’d try something like that when I get near the end of the project — maybe try to make it the next-to-last book I read, or something.

  2. katfeete

    I have a copy of Changeover I can lend you if you like.

  3. fjm

    You can get a on copy of changeover from the fan site.

    Wilkins’ Tooth was the third book written and was written to editor specs to get DWJ on the shelf. You can feel it creaking at its stays. But I thought it an interesting enough failure to write a chapter about it. It has all DWJs trademarks.

    • Marie Brennan

      <hangs head in shame> Yeah, I haven’t read your book yet. (I sort of went off scholarly stuff for a while because of grad school.) Thought about picking it up before I started this project, actually, but I think I’d rather read it afterward.

      Which book was written second? If you say The Ogre Downstairs, I will be completely unsurprised.

      • fjm

        Ogre Downstairs followed by Eight Days of Luke I think. Eight Days is the first to *really* feel like a Jones.

        Contact “meredith” , for copies of CHangeover.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, looking at the timeline, that was pretty much my thought, too. The ones published before it feel like they could have been written by plenty of other people, rather than having her particular stamp.

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