Since the beginning of July up until two days ago, I had an 11 year old living with me. An 11 year old who wasn't too fond of reading. Eventually, we found common ground in museums, where she got to look at shiny things that used to belong to dead people, and I got my history mojo flowing and all was right in the world.
We also went to the opening night of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - more on that later. Before heading out, she asked me if I had anything short for her to read while we were sitting in line, and since I never get rid of books I like, I found her something.
disappeared when she was a baby. Since then, she has been raised and
homeschooled by her grandparents. Grandad is overworked and travels a
lot; Grandma is much too strict and never lets her meet any children her
own age. When Hayley does something wrong—she is not quite sure
what—they pack her off to her aunts in Ireland. To Hayley's shock, her
family is much bigger than she thought; to her delight, the children all
play what they call “the game,” where they visit a place called “the
mythosphere.” And while she plays the game, Hayley learns more about her
own place in the world than she had ever expected. This original
novella by Diana Wynne Jones is sharply funny, fast-paced, and
surprising until its very end—like all of this acclaimed author's work.
As a lifelong fan of mythology - Greek and otherwise - , and a childhood player of my own 'games,' this book struck a chord with me. The world of the mythosphere is fascinating and full of possibilities. While the late, great Jones draws predominantly on Greek and Roman mythology, she touches on other sources as well, including folk and fairy tales, and even classic literature, making the world seem dazzlingly familiar.
The characters are charming and reasonably memorable, in concept if not in actions. It's easy to see that this evolved from a novella; the concept is amazing, but the work executing it seems only half done, especially with the characters. However, the magic Diana Wynne Jones touch makes even the things that seem only half formed charming.
One of the things I've always had mixed feelings about with regards to Jones' writing is how soft a hand she uses. Often times, it works really well, but there are stories and moments within stories where I feel that she sells herself short by not delving deeper into the subject. Hayley's loneliness about her parents, the frustration of the cousins and the rest of the family about having to obey Uncle Jolyon, the motivations and machinations of Harmony, Fiddle, and Flute are just a few of the areas that I feel could have been explored more thoroughly.
The mythosphere has the potential for not just a larger book, but a series of books, and I confess to being disappointed that more time wasn't devoted to this world. Of course, there's always the realm of fanfiction, and who's to say that in a few years devoted readers won't write their own sequels as was done for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. But it won't be Diana Wynne Jones writing it, and that makes me sad.
While this book is mainly targeted at Middle Grade readers, I think it's enjoyable by all ages, Young Adult included. On my reread, I noticed mentions of a lot of darker myths that younger readers might not notice which add a lot to the sense of danger and risk in the mythosphere.
While the size of the books bothers me personally, it makes for an approachable, non-threatening book for kids who consider themselves non-readers. The Game is quick, colorful, and engaging.
My Rating: 4/5 Mushrooms.
Playing with the Stars,
- Maria D'Isidoro
- was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.