Wonderland, Found: Dame DWJ

Each of us walks a different path when finding wonderland. For us, it has largely been the flight of fantasy which has fueled our imaginations. We delight in other faces, other worlds, the “what if” of science commingled with the “of course we can” of fantasy fiction. Though we discovered Diana Wynne Jones at very different times in our lives, we both had the similar experience of knowing we’d found a friend, an ally, a home.

Wonderland, in connection with other blogs and kidlit writers around the world, most proudly presents our little tribute to Dame DWJ, just over a year after her star went down to “rise upon another shore.” She will never be truly gone; she lives on in every story, and thus, in all of us.

I was nine years old. Earlier that year, I had moved to a new school district, a new school. I was in the sixth grade. Everyone, obviously, was older than I was, and they’d all been going to the same school for years, already knew one another, already had friendships and factions and alliances and dynamics I knew nothing about. So-and-so had been so-and-so’s boyfriend in first grade, and they’d walked around the playground holding hands. Those guys always played basketball at recess, while that girl played football with the boys after lunch.

I was quiet. Oftentimes, I didn’t find friends so much as the friends found me. At some point early in the school year, Cindy found me. Yes, she already had a best friend from kindergarten days, already had a small close-knit group, but Cindy was (and still is) friendly and boisterous and talkative and openhearted. What’s more, she loved books and reading as much as I did. Her parents were both chemistry professors, but she was like me, willing and eager to be lost in worlds of the imagination.

One day, we were at her house and she asked if I’d ever read some book or other about magic and time travel. We liked a lot of the same books already—from Sweet Valley High to Madeleine L’Engle — but I hadn’t heard of the one she was talking about. We went upstairs. Right at the top of the stairs, on the landing, was a small, low bookshelf, right outside the door to Cindy’s bedroom. We sat on the beige-carpeted stairs and she pulled a paperback out, then another: Witch Week, and A Tale of Time City, by Diana Wynne Jones.

That was how it started. I felt like Diana Wynne Jones’s books filled a reading void I hadn’t even known existed, stretched my imagination in a new direction that nevertheless struck a chord of almost primal recognition. They filled me with wonder and made me believe. The characters seemed real, they came alive on the page, and because of that, even the most implausible and fantastical worlds seemed possible. At a time when books were not only a source of joy but an escape from feeling uncertain and new at school, from feeling angry and frustrated by the ongoing aftereffects of my parents’ divorce a few years prior, I was more than happy to believe, to plunge headfirst into the adventures of Christopher Chant and Sophie and Howl and everyone else.

What I find most wondrous, perhaps, is that whenever I pick up one of DWJ’s books even now, I still feel the same way. I still feel the same willing surrender to belief, the same eagerness to let the waters close over my head and be completely immersed in her worlds. I miss her, but thanks to her written legacy, I am able to find her again and again, as her books found me.

“Things we are accustomed to regard as myth or fairy story are very much present in people’s lives. Nice people behave like wicked stepmothers. Every day.”

daily celebrations, memories, fine words and pictures. Check the schedule, and find out who’s next for this month’s celebration tour.

It doesn’t surprise us at all that we know almost everyone on the tour so far. No wonder we’re friends…♥

Continuing the celebration of the life and contribution of Diana Wynne Jones, DOGSBODY, FIRE AND HEMLOCK, and A TALE OF TIME CITY are being reissued by Firebird Books, with introductions respectively by Neil Gaiman, Ursula LeGuin and Garth Nix. New covers and new artwork make these works extra-special, as well as the inclusion, in FIRE AND HEMLOCK, of an essay by DWJ not previously published with that book. If you’ve never read these three titles, you’ll want to jump on this chance!

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.


  1. "No wonder we're friends…♥" indeed.

    I love you both – and now I just love ya that much more! (It always strikes me as so amazing when I discover that friends are as deeply connected to certain books and music as I am. It's like we've been fated our whole lives to find each other…)

  2. There is something about sharing the same beloved books that, I feel, links people together at the level of the heart and the imagination…more strongly, almost, than any words that could be spoken aloud. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but it feels true.

    Anyway, T, I think I'd like to go back and read all the DWJ books, too, especially since there are plenty I've never read. Maybe we can plan a couple of joint reviews, if our re-reads coincide…

  3. This is such a lovely tribute to Diana Wynne Jones! I wish I discovered her books earlier, when I was a kid. But I don't think they were available here in the Philippines? In any case, I need to catch up and read the rest of her titles because I love Howl's Moving Castle (and really enjoyed reading the companion novels and the first two Chrestomanci books).

    Happy DWJ Week! 🙂

  4. @ Colleen & AF: After SBBT, yes?
    @ Cheryl: thank you, and thanks for dropping by.
    @ Chachic: They might not have been available in the Philippines – but now she's EVERYWHERE, so do read!! You will find not only fantasy and adventure and humor, but a thoughtfulness and a cleverness that will still appeal to your adult side.

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