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They're in the "revenge" business Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash -- fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to s They're in the "revenge" business Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash -- fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to seek at some time, they figure. Most don't have the courage themselves. But Jess and Frank do -- for a price Lots of clients show up. But Jess and Frank soon discover that the revenge business can be pretty complicated, especially when it turns out that there's another one in town -- owned by Biddy Iremonger, the fiercely competitive local witch


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They're in the "revenge" business Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash -- fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to s They're in the "revenge" business Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash -- fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to seek at some time, they figure. Most don't have the courage themselves. But Jess and Frank do -- for a price Lots of clients show up. But Jess and Frank soon discover that the revenge business can be pretty complicated, especially when it turns out that there's another one in town -- owned by Biddy Iremonger, the fiercely competitive local witch

30 review for Witch's Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex Ankarr

    A charmingly daft, deft, graceful early work. The workaround for swearing is hilarious! And beware, the Big Bad is actually quite scary. A darling of a read, and ought to be as celebrated as many of her other great works.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Is it possible for there to be too many ideas in a novel? Especially in a children’s story of barely two hundred pages? In Diana Wynne Jones’ very first children’s novel images and themes and borrowings and emotions all come out fizzing and popping, like fireworks that one can gasp at while scarcely having time to reflect before the next effect bursts into view. The book is dedicated to one Jessica Frances, and what better compliment can an author pay to a dedicatee than including them, however o Is it possible for there to be too many ideas in a novel? Especially in a children’s story of barely two hundred pages? In Diana Wynne Jones’ very first children’s novel images and themes and borrowings and emotions all come out fizzing and popping, like fireworks that one can gasp at while scarcely having time to reflect before the next effect bursts into view. The book is dedicated to one Jessica Frances, and what better compliment can an author pay to a dedicatee than including them, however obliquely, in the story. Jess and Frank are twins who, bitter at being stopped their pocket money, set up what they hope is a money-making scheme that will simultaneously feed their need for cash while getting a sort of revenge for their economic disempowerment. Jones has written about youngsters’ constant cries of “It isn’t fair!” as not being an adequate response to their situation (Reflections 52-3). A better response, she says, is humour and by the end of the book humour is what wins the day rather than pure revenge, because, as Juvenal in his Satires said, “Revenge is sweet, sweeter than life itself — so say fools.” Jess and Frank put up their sign on the shed at the bottom of their garden: OWN BACK LTD REVENGE ARRANGED PRICE ACCORDING TO TASK ALL DIFFICULT TASKS UNDERTAKEN TREASURE HUNTED ETC. Soon they are inundated with requests by individuals wanting to ‘get their own back’, that is, revenge for real or perceived slights. Unfortunately, the twins’ attempts to make money backfire as they get paid back with increasing complications and problems. Neighbourhood bully Buster Knell wants one of Vernon Wilkins’ teeth because Vernon has stood up to bullying and knocked out one of Buster’s teeth. Two sisters, Jenny and Frankie Adams, want revenge on a dotty old lady for giving Jenny the Evil Eye and making her lame. Martin Taylor wants the twins to stop the two sisters from harassing him. Each job has unforeseen knock-on effects, turning ordinary events into nightmare situations. And the dotty old lady, Biddy Iremonger, is more than she seems. Diana Wynne Jones’ debut novel for young people appears to spring miraculously out of nowhere like Athena from Zeus’ head, setting both the tone and the standard for what came later. And its not just for young people either — adults with their broader life experiences can appreciate the nuances as much as the narrative and be startled by the cultural references as much as they’re dragged along by the plot. Let’s start with names. We’ve already been alerted by the dedication; now to turn our attention to the title. I remember from my schoolboy history a notorious British imperial adventure called the War of Jenkins’ Ear. In this ten-year naval war against Spain the initiating incident involved Robert Jenkins who, sailing from the West Indies, was stopped by a Spanish ship and then had his ear summarily sliced off. The British retaliation, which was only commenced some years later, was given its fatuous title a century later to underline the ridiculous nature of a minor fracas escalating into a major conflict; Jones did well to resist calling her story The War of Wilkins’ Tooth in emulation of this episode, bearing in mind the narrative parallels. Why tooth, though? She as good as cites the Old Testament injunction of ‘an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth’, an amoral justification of vendetta which is endlessly played out around the world, to the shame of peoples and nations. Pride of place for choice of names goes to Biddy Iremonger. ‘Biddy’ is of course a common name given to old ladies of an inconsequential nature, a familiar form of Bridget, but this biddy is not inconsequential at all. Iremonger reminds one first of all of ‘ironmonger’, but here it also suggests someone who deals in anger, a contradiction of that ‘biddy’ label. At one stage her name is misspelled as B Ayamunga, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see leap out the name of that infamous Slavic folklore witch Baba Yaga. Jones would have been very familiar with this bogey figure, not least from Old Peter’s Russian Tales, a book by Arthur Ransome which her father grudgingly provided when she and her sisters were young. Ransome (whom Jones actually saw when she was evacuated during the war to the Lake District) retold a Russian folktale as “Baba Yaga and the Little Girl with the Kind Heart”, describing the witch as having iron teeth as well as the cannibalistic tendencies of the Hansel and Gretel witch; she lived in a little hut which stood on hen’s legs and flew around in a mortar with her pestle and besom broom. The hut on fowl’s legs famously features as one of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, inspired by a real exhibition which included Victor Hartmann’s design for a cuckoo clock based on Baba Yaga’s hut. Like her Russian counterpart Biddy has a hut with a cockerel on the roof (though the structure doesn’t move) and a cat that prowls around; though she lacks the iron teeth the name Iremonger is suggestive. And — the clincher here — she not only is a witch with terrifying and almost limitless powers but also proves capable of enormous cruelty to children. Powerful. Vindictive. Cruel. How can she ever be defeated, and by mere kids? The answer seems to be to use humour and a sense of playfulness. Laughing at an opponent is a rather dangerous strategy but generally laughter can help raise the spirits, while a sense of playfulness can lead to solutions. Jess’ remembrance of a favourite fairytale, Puss in Boots, allows her to work out how to defeat Biddy. As the author herself points out (Reflections 126) Jones doesn’t consciously use folktale motifs, rather they ‘present themselves’ and the ‘weight they carry is only to be grasped intuitively’, so Jones’ intuitive usage of the motif only represents poetic justice. In almost the same breath she references Wagner’s Rheingold, specifically the point at which Alberich is tricked into shape-shifting into a toad’s form, a hint at her multiple influences. The mention of the treasure and waters of the Rhine draws in more strands that manifest themselves in Wilkins' Tooth. The river that runs past Biddy’s hut (echoing the tears that run down the faces of a couple of characters) is not just a reminder of Baba Yaga’s difficulties in crossing water but a nod towards the treasure of the Rhine Maidens, the Rheingold of Wagner’s music drama and German myth. Another strand running through this novel is the search for missing heirlooms in the form of treasure, a common enough motif to be sure. Here I am forcibly reminded of E Nesbit’s The Treasure Seekers — this being, as the subtitle proclaims, 'the Adventures of the Bastable Children in Search of A Fortune. Jones’ son Colin Burrows tells us that Nesbit was “the biggest literary influence on his mother” and “the main spirit behind Diana Wynne Jones’ fiction”. I can’t help thinking that Jess and Frank’s selfish efforts to raise cash becoming the selfless quest for Jenny and Frankie’s family heirlooms is largely inspired by Nesbit’s first children’s novel; the transformation of pure revenge (‘getting one’s own back’) into natural justice (getting the Adams family’s own heirlooms back) is in the same Nesbit tradition of using ideal or magical worlds “to work out real problems from their own lives” (as Colin Burrows puts it, Reflections 344-5). There is so much literary treasure in this apparently artless story. I could mention the use of colour for example, exemplified by the rainbow which, contrasting with the drab surrounding neighbourhood, leads to missing treasure, or the diverse children — some West Indian or red-haired and others with disabilities or social deprivation – who somehow learn to work together in the face of a frightening external threat. To my mind there are few faults, and any can be laid at the door of a debut author, such as the citation of specific monetary sums which, coming soon after the novelty of UK decimalisation in 1971, too soon fell prey to inflation and which appear laughably small four decades on. Rising above it all are Jones’ characters who, apart from the villainous of the piece, are not one-dimensional but variously recognisable from any social situation; Jones’ strength here is in allowing the reader to identify with any number of characters, not just the main protagonists. I asked if it were possible for one short novel to have too many ideas, the range of which I have tried to hint at in this review. At the very least it must surely be preferable to a novel with too few ideas; but a book where you continue to make connections long after you have read it must be a very valuable one. Treasure seekers need not search in vain. http://wp.me/s2oNj1-wilkins

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    I found it somehow very english XD I can not for my life explain why. Also it not a bad thing, it is just something I thought while reading. It was a very fun read and think most younger readers would enjoy the magick, but also the dilema in right and wrong. And knowing when to stop.

  4. 5 out of 5

    sigaloenta

    Early DWJ is so interesting-- you can really see the bones of earlier British children's lit traditions Early DWJ is so interesting-- you can really see the bones of earlier British children's lit traditions

  5. 4 out of 5

    Somesuchlike

    It's taken me forever to get round to reading this book - something about it always put me off. For some reason it's always struck me as not really being a Diana Wynne Jones book (even before I read that she felt the same way). I don't know if it was the blurb or the title or the cover or what, but something about it has always been offputting and profoundly unmemorable. That said, I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. It's an interesting mix of 70s childrens' fiction expectations - the self- It's taken me forever to get round to reading this book - something about it always put me off. For some reason it's always struck me as not really being a Diana Wynne Jones book (even before I read that she felt the same way). I don't know if it was the blurb or the title or the cover or what, but something about it has always been offputting and profoundly unmemorable. That said, I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. It's an interesting mix of 70s childrens' fiction expectations - the self-conciously diverse cast, the obvious moral at the end - with some nice Diana Wynne Jones touches. The two protagonists, Frank and Jess, are quite possibly the blandest characters in any of Diana Wynne Jones's books, but the rest of the cast is much better - Vernon, the eerie Adams sisters with 'famine poster eyes', and especially Biddy Iremonger the witch. Jones has a disarming writing style: stylistically her books are very child-friendly and simply written, and then disturbing little details start creeping in around the edges, and somehow that was even more effective than usual here when the style was even more childish that usual - the cheeriness with with Biddy talks about cursing little children, Frankie and Jenny's enchanted, neglectful father, the way she controls Buster and his gang then sets invisible insectoid 'things' to crawl all over them when they disobey her... there's some creepy stuff here. All in all, it's not up to Jones's usual standard, but it's still a fun little book with some interesting ideas, and I'm glad I read it. Aside from anything else, Biddy Iremonger is pretty clearly Baba Yaga, and anything with Baba Yaga in it gets a thumbs up from me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Jane

    Witch's Business is one of Diana Wynne Jones first books (published in 1973). It was originally titled 'Wilkins' Tooth' because trouble starts when one of the characters asked for Wilkins' Tooth as retribution for what has been done to him. Although Witch's Business is very fitting too. The children start a revenge business called Own Back Ltd. to earn a bit of money but soon it gets out of hand and they start to regret it. I like D.W. Jones writings and can recognize her style out of thousands. Witch's Business is one of Diana Wynne Jones first books (published in 1973). It was originally titled 'Wilkins' Tooth' because trouble starts when one of the characters asked for Wilkins' Tooth as retribution for what has been done to him. Although Witch's Business is very fitting too. The children start a revenge business called Own Back Ltd. to earn a bit of money but soon it gets out of hand and they start to regret it. I like D.W. Jones writings and can recognize her style out of thousands. But this book wasn't one of her best. I do not recommend to try D.W. Jones' writings with this book but rather with the Howl's Moving Castle series which I highly recommend. The writing in Witch's Business didn't flow that well and lacked depth, something that is definitely more present in her later books. The story didn't really grab me. Also this book is clearly meant for a very young audience (compared to her other books). It's the kind of book you would read for your children. Still I'm enjoying D.W. Jones books so much and Witch's Business is not a bad book at all. All D.W. Jones books are intended for a young audience but they show a lot of maturity, especially compared to today's YA. Definitely planning to try her Chrestomanci series next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    This is one of Diana Wynne Jones' earlier books. (It was originally published in 1973, under the title 'Wilkins' Tooth') It's definitely aimed at a younger audience than many of her books - it's a kids' book, probably for people around 10. But I didn't feel that it had the 'condescending' feeling that I complained of in 'Dogsbody' at all. I admit that I enjoyed it! In it, a group of kids decide to make some pocket money by going into the revenge business. Soon this leads them to tangle with the to This is one of Diana Wynne Jones' earlier books. (It was originally published in 1973, under the title 'Wilkins' Tooth') It's definitely aimed at a younger audience than many of her books - it's a kids' book, probably for people around 10. But I didn't feel that it had the 'condescending' feeling that I complained of in 'Dogsbody' at all. I admit that I enjoyed it! In it, a group of kids decide to make some pocket money by going into the revenge business. Soon this leads them to tangle with the tough gang from the neighborhood, the two 'weird' sisters that no one likes, and some other kids from the neighborhood. Everyone wants revenge on someone, and the situation is getting complicated - but it goes from complicated to worse when the strange old Biddy who lives in a hut and is suspected of being a witch begins to warn them off... revenge might be "Witch's Business" and kids have no right to cut in....

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I didn't realize this book is actually from 1974! Had a hard time with the weird British kid's slang, but am fully prepared with phases like "curried-tonsil scum" and "disemboweled" (a common adjective in here!) and "stomach-juicing". Oh, and it's about revenge. And how it's bad. Bad revenge. Bad. Don't do it. I didn't realize this book is actually from 1974! Had a hard time with the weird British kid's slang, but am fully prepared with phases like "curried-tonsil scum" and "disemboweled" (a common adjective in here!) and "stomach-juicing". Oh, and it's about revenge. And how it's bad. Bad revenge. Bad. Don't do it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This made me feel 8 years old again, tramping around the neighborhood and making up games and businesses with my friends.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I suppose practice makes perfect, and this was the beginning of practice perhaps. Because it’s pretty awful. The ethics in this are pretty shady. About the only part I hadn’t pegged was who the nice lady (bah, humbug) was who told Jess that intent mattered in doing an action and she and her brother had been quite bad but could start putting things right. The only original part was in describing the bad language the gang kids used as a variety of colors starting with purple and orange. Basically I suppose practice makes perfect, and this was the beginning of practice perhaps. Because it’s pretty awful. The ethics in this are pretty shady. About the only part I hadn’t pegged was who the nice lady (bah, humbug) was who told Jess that intent mattered in doing an action and she and her brother had been quite bad but could start putting things right. The only original part was in describing the bad language the gang kids used as a variety of colors starting with purple and orange. Basically none of them seemed particularly nice with the witch simply the nastiest of the lot. Not recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Odd little story. It only took me a few hours to read. I love all things British, but for my first read of this author I was unimpressed. I think what I found most odd was the way the children spoke, and swore! Did children really use the expression "I say" in Britain. Not sure when this was written, but it had a very old fashioned feel to it. The story was fine, the flow odd....and I wasn't rooting for any of the protagonists, except the little Wilkins boy who got the curse instead of his older Odd little story. It only took me a few hours to read. I love all things British, but for my first read of this author I was unimpressed. I think what I found most odd was the way the children spoke, and swore! Did children really use the expression "I say" in Britain. Not sure when this was written, but it had a very old fashioned feel to it. The story was fine, the flow odd....and I wasn't rooting for any of the protagonists, except the little Wilkins boy who got the curse instead of his older brother. I still want to read this author's "Howl's Moving Castle."

  12. 5 out of 5

    ☺Trish

    I really enjoyed Witch's Business, especially the ending! First Note: I wished Diana Wynne Jones had used comic book swearing @#$%$#@ instead of nonsense words like zombie-juiced (which sounds very modern, btw), etc. - I simply substituted real swear words when appropriate to make the dialogue flow more smoothly. Second Note: For a story written (and supposedly set) in the early '70's, the kids' lifestyles and actions seemed like those from an earlier time - like from the Little Rascals/Our Gang e I really enjoyed Witch's Business, especially the ending! First Note: I wished Diana Wynne Jones had used comic book swearing @#$%$#@ instead of nonsense words like zombie-juiced (which sounds very modern, btw), etc. - I simply substituted real swear words when appropriate to make the dialogue flow more smoothly. Second Note: For a story written (and supposedly set) in the early '70's, the kids' lifestyles and actions seemed like those from an earlier time - like from the Little Rascals/Our Gang era (what with their bikes, go-carts, and wagons).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pam Baddeley

    This is the author's first book for children, as she had an adult novel published a few years previously. It was published in 1973 but has some of the aspects we have come to expect from DWJ fiction such as a group of disparate characters who have to rub along together and learn tolerance as they work to achieve a joint goal. Brother and sister Frank and Jess have had their pocket money stopped after breaking a chair and they come up with a money making scheme, Own Back Ltd, which they start to r This is the author's first book for children, as she had an adult novel published a few years previously. It was published in 1973 but has some of the aspects we have come to expect from DWJ fiction such as a group of disparate characters who have to rub along together and learn tolerance as they work to achieve a joint goal. Brother and sister Frank and Jess have had their pocket money stopped after breaking a chair and they come up with a money making scheme, Own Back Ltd, which they start to run from a shed in the allotments. The problem that immediately arises is that the local bully Buster, to whom Frank owes a small amount of money (the amounts in this book are very small - 5p, 10p, because of the publication date) insists that they pay him back by carrying out a revenge attack on a boy called Vernon Wilkins. Vernon knocked out the bully's tooth (when the bully and his gang tried to rough him up) and so he wants them to knock one out in return. Neither sibling is the violent type so they go to see Vernon to explain their difficult position. Vernon oblidges by extracting a loose baby tooth from his little brother Silas. Unfortunately, Buster then gives the tooth to a strange old woman called Biddy Irestone who lives in a hut on nearby waste ground and has a reputation among the children - later found out to be deserved - of being a witch. He asks Biddy to use it to inflict a painful face swelling spell on Vernon, but it affects Silas instead as he was the tooth's donor. Soon Jess and Frank are involved in more and more complications as other children approach them for 'jobs'. They end up not making any money out of it and instead being dragged into the machinations of Biddy Irestone who is probably one of the nastiest villains in DWJ's fiction, judging by the way she seems to derive pleasure from tormenting children. She has put spells on some of the local children just for fun, such as making one girl limp, and taunts them that the spell will only be taken off when they find the 'heirlooms' belonging to this girl and her sister (which she has stolen, along with the family's other valuables, leaving them living in a rundown house with no money to fix it). None of the adults in the area believe the children about Biddy, and the father and aunt of the two sisters even appear to be in thrall to her. A lot of the appeal of the story is the strange characters, not just the witch. The two sisters are oddly Victorian and live with their peculiar father and aunt. Their mother is missing and they have a grudge against another boy, Martin, because his parents bought the bigger house where they used to live, and turned it into a nursing home. Buster and his gang swear all the time but because this was published in 1973 when even mild swear words were not allowed in children's fiction, these are portrayed by colour subsitutions - orange, purple and crimson mainly. There is a particularly comedic section where the two sisters attempt to search their house for the 'heirlooms' and later when the boys venture onto the roof with even more slapstick results. One aspect that would probably be changed if the book were republished now, is that Buster uses an abbreviated version of a racist term completely unacceptable now, to refer to Vernon who is black. Although this shows what a nasty character Buster is, I think it would be changed to something else. The aunt character also uses another derogatory racial term a couple of times and it is definitely meant to show her in a bad light, as the second time she says it Vernon's dad is present and looks annoyed. However, it isn't commented on by the characters as it should be, although it shows that DWJ was aware this wasn't acceptable, just didn't highlight how unacceptable. However, this book is probably quite an early one in the history of children's literature to portray ethnic individuals positively, with Vernon having a key and quite heroic role throughout. To sum up, the book is quite a fun light read but lacks the complexity of DWJ's later fiction. However, the seeds are there for her later more complex treatment of the main theme, for example, "Black Maria" where another nasty witch character does horrible things to children just because she can.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Harold Ogle

    An interesting read, and at the same time a very enjoyable one, because Diana Wynne Jones wrote so well. Some claim this to be Jones' first novel. I have no idea, but it was written in 1973, so there's a lot of strange antiquated cultural references that one must wade through in the first couple of chapters in order to get into the thick of the story, because Jones wrote a story here that was contemporary to the time and place of 1973 England. This means that there were weird British terms like " An interesting read, and at the same time a very enjoyable one, because Diana Wynne Jones wrote so well. Some claim this to be Jones' first novel. I have no idea, but it was written in 1973, so there's a lot of strange antiquated cultural references that one must wade through in the first couple of chapters in order to get into the thick of the story, because Jones wrote a story here that was contemporary to the time and place of 1973 England. This means that there were weird British terms like "West Indian" that I had to mull over (and in the end, research) in order to know what she'd meant (it means from the "West Indies," a term for the Caribbean that I would have thought died out in the 17th century. Nowadays we would say "Jamaican" or "Haitian" or just "Caribbean" if we didn't know from which island his parents emigrated). Aside from the occasional jarring bit like that, the book is wonderful. It has to do with two siblings who owe money and who've had their allowance cut off. So they hatch a scheme called "Own Back" (itself a reference to an antiquated English expression), which has nothing to do with anatomy and everything to do with retrieval and/or revenge. In a nice twist, every plan they have to give someone his comeuppance goes awry, resulting in more trouble and more debt in a terrible spiral of bad decisions. I'd say the book might be too intense for younger readers, as soon they stumble across plots of murder, mental domination, and Evil that are pretty frightening but which, presented from the kids' point of view, are taken in stride as the generally unfair lot that kids have in life. There's bullies and violence and indifferent adults. And magic. Of course there's magic, because it's a Diana Wynne Jones book, with yet another completely different take on magic and how magic works. She's really amazing, to have written so many books and each of them with a completely separate internal logic for how magic works. Here's what happens: (view spoiler)[Jess and Frank mope in the garden shed, which they treat as a retreat/hideout, dejected because they have no pocket money and their allowance has been suspended as a punishment for breaking furniture in the house. Frank is particularly despondent, because he bet the town bully for 10p and he lost the bet. So it's only a matter of time before the bully comes and terrorizes him. So Jess thinks: why not form a little business venture to earn some cash? They could find treasure, enact revenge, and do other odd and/or difficult jobs for people, on commission! So they whip out a sign and open up shop right there in the shed. First the bully arrives and scares them into taking his commission (not for cash but for erasing Frank's debt): getting revenge. Vernon Wilkins fought the bully and knocked a tooth out, so now the bully wants a Wilkins tooth in exchange. Sensing doom, Jess and Frank visit the Wilkins house with no ideas. Vernon helpfully yanks out one of his kid brother's baby teeth (which was about to come out anyway) and gives it to Jess and Frank despite their objections, on the promise that they will pay him 5p when they can. They hand it over to the bully as a "Wilkins tooth." Meanwhile, two weird orphan girls, Frankie and Jenny, request that they enact revenge on the homeless village crackpot, Biddy Iremonger, whom they claim is a witch. They offer antiquated currency that is no longer legal tender in exchange. Then they are hired by Martin to get revenge on Frankie and Jenny...and so on, and so on. In the end, Biddy is actually an evil witch, and she ensorcells nearly everyone before the kids can trick her into defeating herself, much like in old fairy tales. (hide spoiler)] It was well-written and fun, once I got into the rhythm of it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    "Frank and Jess thought Own Back Ltd. was an excellent idea when they first invented it. Three days later, they were not so sure" (1). That's how this book starts, and reading those sentences, you know you're in for a lesson-learning sort of book, but this being Diana Wynne Jones, it's not too heavy-handed. Own Back Ltd. starts over Easter break, when Frank and Jess are bemoaning their lack of pocket money: they broke a chair, and their pocket money's been stopped. It's Jess who thinks of it fir "Frank and Jess thought Own Back Ltd. was an excellent idea when they first invented it. Three days later, they were not so sure" (1). That's how this book starts, and reading those sentences, you know you're in for a lesson-learning sort of book, but this being Diana Wynne Jones, it's not too heavy-handed. Own Back Ltd. starts over Easter break, when Frank and Jess are bemoaning their lack of pocket money: they broke a chair, and their pocket money's been stopped. It's Jess who thinks of it first, wondering if "people pay you to do bad things for them" (p 2). Frank agrees that people must, and later that night the two of them make a notice advertising their new business: "Own Back Ltd./Revenge Arranged/Price According to Task," for starters, and then, for good measure: "All Difficult Tasks Undertaken/Treasure Hunted, Etc." (3). Though business is slow at first, things pick up quickly, and (surprise surprise) Jess and Frank soon find themselves in over their heads. While this book is not as complex or nuanced as Dogsbody or Fire and Hemlock, or as endearing as Charmed Life or The Lives of Christopher Chant, it is a sweet and fun read with some details that made me smile, like when Jess, at one point, says something without really thinking about it and then ends up "catching up with the conversation and discovering she meant what she said" (102). (I love that way of describing the situation, which feels really true to me: you say something in a sort of knee-jerk way, someone questions you on it, and then as you think it through and articulate things more fully, you realize you did indeed mean what you said, even if you couldn't initially have said why.) The writing seems self-conscious sometimes—there's lots of "as Jess said afterward," which I found sort of jarring, but I love how Jess, on two different occasions, uses storytelling or a knowledge of stories to solve problems—first when she distracts Frankie and Jenny (those two odd little girls) from their crankiness by telling them a story, and then again at the end of the book. I also appreciate the descriptions of the setting, the sense of place: this book is set in England near Easter, a Britain of potting sheds and allotment gardens and "a marshy, tangled, waste strip beside the river where everyone threw rubbish," a Britain where spring is "blank and bleak as winter," rainy and wet and grey (4-5).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Magali

    One of DWJ's first novels and it definitely is missing some of the charming sparkle of her later work. This felt a lot like Black Maria, actually--a bit too dark and serious thematically to fit the tone of the story and characters. Unlike Black Maria though, the cast was larger and just full of delightful characters. I loved Jess and Frankie the most. Definitely recommend this one, but not as enthusiastically as, say, Dalemark (for darker themes) or Chrestomanci (for children getting up to their One of DWJ's first novels and it definitely is missing some of the charming sparkle of her later work. This felt a lot like Black Maria, actually--a bit too dark and serious thematically to fit the tone of the story and characters. Unlike Black Maria though, the cast was larger and just full of delightful characters. I loved Jess and Frankie the most. Definitely recommend this one, but not as enthusiastically as, say, Dalemark (for darker themes) or Chrestomanci (for children getting up to their ears in magical trouble). 3 solid stars; may not reread but definitely enjoyed my time with this book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    I should note that I have the British version, which is called Wilkins' Tooth. First few times I read it I wasn't particularly impressed, but the last re-read I quite enjoyed. Not her most in-depth plot or world building, but I liked her characters a lot. She makes them come across quite clearly without resorting to lots of description. And I still love the "colourful language". Chartreuse with purple polka dots! I should note that I have the British version, which is called Wilkins' Tooth. First few times I read it I wasn't particularly impressed, but the last re-read I quite enjoyed. Not her most in-depth plot or world building, but I liked her characters a lot. She makes them come across quite clearly without resorting to lots of description. And I still love the "colourful language". Chartreuse with purple polka dots!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    I always love her books. This one reads a little more like a children's story than others, but still really good. I always love her books. This one reads a little more like a children's story than others, but still really good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    robyn

    CHARMING. This is one of Wynne's sketchy stories, the ones that felt like with a little more flesh they could have been a much stronger, longer, wilder story. It begins amusingly, a couple of children with a good idea to make a little money, who end up falling foul of the neighborhood bullies, cleverly avoiding trouble only to fall into worse, growing increasingly embroiled with local characters - all pretty traditional, almost E Nesbit stuff - but then because it's DWJ, the old woman who's rumor CHARMING. This is one of Wynne's sketchy stories, the ones that felt like with a little more flesh they could have been a much stronger, longer, wilder story. It begins amusingly, a couple of children with a good idea to make a little money, who end up falling foul of the neighborhood bullies, cleverly avoiding trouble only to fall into worse, growing increasingly embroiled with local characters - all pretty traditional, almost E Nesbit stuff - but then because it's DWJ, the old woman who's rumored to be a witch, really DOES turn out to be a witch. And not just a witch, but a really nasty witch, who has been doing harm, and means to continue. The end tails off quite suddenly, but for a child (and that is the target audience after all) it should feel very satisfying. Friends are made, evil is vanquished, the rightful order of things is restored, and even the wicked cat lives happily and plumply ever after.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Valance

    Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months! That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash—fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to seek at some time, they figure. Most don't have the courage themselves. But Jess and Frank do—for a price! Lots of clients show up. But Jess and Frank soon disco Jess and Frank's father has stopped their allowances for four whole months! That means that Jess can't go anywhere or do anything with her friends. Worse yet, Frank owes money to Buster Knell, the bully. How can Jess and Frank earn some cash—fast? By starting a business, Own Back, Ltd. It specializes in revenge, which every kid needs to seek at some time, they figure. Most don't have the courage themselves. But Jess and Frank do—for a price! Lots of clients show up. But Jess and Frank soon discover that the revenge business can be pretty complicated, especially when it turns out that there's another one in town—owned by Biddy Iremonger, the fiercely competitive local witch!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anja Fruelund

    Childhood in true form Once again Diana Wynne-Jones describes the everyday battles of childhood, kids against grown ups and more importantly against evil. As always the adults haven't got a clue about the dramatic goings on in the children's universe, things that seem ordinary to the adult eye take on extraordinary significance to the kids and become a true adeventure. It's not her best, but it is definitely charming. Childhood in true form Once again Diana Wynne-Jones describes the everyday battles of childhood, kids against grown ups and more importantly against evil. As always the adults haven't got a clue about the dramatic goings on in the children's universe, things that seem ordinary to the adult eye take on extraordinary significance to the kids and become a true adeventure. It's not her best, but it is definitely charming.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carfig

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Brother and sister Frank and Jess start a revenge (Own Back Ltd) to make money after they lose their allowances for breaking a chair. They not only discover that revenge doesn't pay (literally), it leads to other Own Back business and the wicked witch who started the unpleasantness around them. Of course, they can set it all straight and become friends with everyone (even Buster's gang) in the end. Brother and sister Frank and Jess start a revenge (Own Back Ltd) to make money after they lose their allowances for breaking a chair. They not only discover that revenge doesn't pay (literally), it leads to other Own Back business and the wicked witch who started the unpleasantness around them. Of course, they can set it all straight and become friends with everyone (even Buster's gang) in the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Fifteen children work together to save their families from a local witch. One of my favorite authors.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debby Allen

    A bit of a mess, a bit of a slog but eh, it's okay. Definitely not her best, and would likely not have tried any more if this had been my first. A bit of a mess, a bit of a slog but eh, it's okay. Definitely not her best, and would likely not have tried any more if this had been my first.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Morag Gray

    Three and a half stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nola

    Written in 1973 and hasn't aged well. The nasty kid is really rascist. Not that nasty kids aren't rascist today but there's no condemnation from any of the other kids. Written in 1973 and hasn't aged well. The nasty kid is really rascist. Not that nasty kids aren't rascist today but there's no condemnation from any of the other kids.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Piselli

    Revenge is the business of witches, except when it is the business of English children who got their allowance revoked for breaking a chair. I loved the name "Iremonger" and the gang of boys who use bad language like "slimy" and "disemboweled" Revenge is the business of witches, except when it is the business of English children who got their allowance revoked for breaking a chair. I loved the name "Iremonger" and the gang of boys who use bad language like "slimy" and "disemboweled"

  28. 4 out of 5

    Edward Davies

    Great early Wynne Jones book, wi5 her typical sene of humour and confusion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Boom Baumgartner

    It's definitely a first novel... Nice to know someone as talented as DWJ improved with time too. It's definitely a first novel... Nice to know someone as talented as DWJ improved with time too.

  30. 4 out of 5

    An Odd1

    Funny, fast, easy to read, exotic flavor of UK village where witches are real and Knickerbocker Glories are ice-cream sundaes. The frustrations of children who see adults manipulated but can do nothing. Mucky marsh, smelly swamp stickily globs on plimsoll sneakers and burns eyes. Hide out in prickly gorse bushes and run run run from bullies. Can tiny eyeball charms fend off the Evil Eye? Like Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling, US publishers monkey with titles, formerly "Wilkin's Tooth", and shoul Funny, fast, easy to read, exotic flavor of UK village where witches are real and Knickerbocker Glories are ice-cream sundaes. The frustrations of children who see adults manipulated but can do nothing. Mucky marsh, smelly swamp stickily globs on plimsoll sneakers and burns eyes. Hide out in prickly gorse bushes and run run run from bullies. Can tiny eyeball charms fend off the Evil Eye? Like Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling, US publishers monkey with titles, formerly "Wilkin's Tooth", and should lay off. Frank Pirie owes ten pence bet to bully Buster, broke a chair with sister Jesse aka Jessica, so their pocket money is stopped till summer, but vacation has already started. Father took down front gate notice "Errands run", disallowing "immoral earnings" p2. They tack sign "Own Back Ltd. Revenge Arranged. Price according to task." to door of potting shed along well-trodden allotment side-path, out of parental view p3. The train of interdependent clients gets complicated, all leading back to vicious powerful witch Biddy Iremonger. First customer, Buster, the most loud and vile of his gang, lost a tooth to "curried-tonsil scum" taller older paperboy Vernon Wilkins, will forego debt for "one of Wilkin's pineapple-puking teeth" p9, and will return in one hour for the "slimy poisoned-unwinding-bowel tooth" p10. Jess recalls biblical quotation "If his eye offends the, black it. Only Vernon's West Indian, so it won't show". p11. Vernon plucks out younger brother Silas' loosest wobbler instead, fulfilling the letter of the agreement. But Biddy makes the tooth-owner's face swell painfully "tight and shiny .. more purple than black" p47 in return for owning nine of the bullies. The youngest Silas escapes, tearfully pleads for his brothers. Adams sisters Frankie and limping Jenny, want Biddy's lame curse lifted. Their father reports to Biddy, and obeys her too. Martin, whose family took over big Adams' house for a convalescent (mostly gaga aged) home, wants the Adams girls to stop pestering him, he's not allowed to hit girls. One of the patients "we have to call them guests" p81 Jessica gives tiny eyeball charms to her namesake Jesse. One for her charm bracelet, the other for Frank's pocket, and the duo are noticeably more protected against evil. Jenny's emerald necklace, Frankie's diamond necklace, their mother, and much wealth vanished at the same time. Hunting everywhere, and trying to help everyone, leads to cooperation between the children, to lift Biddy's enslavement. When her tumble-down hut in the smelly swamp magically enlarges to trap them, their only hope lies with her equally beaten black cat familiar. (view spoiler)[Jesse asks the cat to remember the ending of Puss and Boots. (After Shrek and imitation, I did not.) She challenges Biddy to prove her power by transforming into an elephant, then a mouse, crunched down by the cat, ending all the bad spells. Patient Jessica is the Adams' vanished mother, back home after her husband restored to senses. Junk in Biddy's yard that sparkles when looked at sideways is really treasure, and Buster insists the money all be returned to the Adams. "Nobody could call him reformed .. still used slimy and disembowelled language" p200, but everyone is friendlier. "Knickerbocker Glories all round to celebrate. and milk shakes, too, if your innards will stand" p201. (hide spoiler)]

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