Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is a good antidote for children too hooked on other magic books. The book has been made into a movie that students may have seen. For students who might be wishing to attend a magic school and have magic powers, I think this book can help bring them down to earth as most of the magic things go wrong, not much goes right. Like a bad dream, the protagonist, Sophie, becomes old when the Witch of the Waste comes along and curses her. Sophie lives a life of overwork and not much joy for most of the book. This is book one in a trilogy and seems to be the most popular of the three novels.
The castle is magic and has only one window and four doors. The four doors open to different places. The castle can change locations and shapes. The people in the town are scared of the building. They are scared of Howl. The Witch of the Waste scares everyone. Howl is not at all like the typical magician. While he is vain and selfish most of the time, he does dote on his nephews when he makes them what we would call video games years before they are even invented.
When both of the parents leave for different reasons, Sophie is left with the drudgery of a hat shop. Her sisters become apprentices elsewhere. When Sophie becomes suddenly old, she leaves not really knowing where to go. She walks and walks, and ends up living in Howl’s Castle. Howl isn’t especially nice to her but also lets her stay. Her companions are a fire (Calcifer) and Michael, Howl’s Apprentice. Right, I didn’t say this book made very much sense. It does have an interesting story as far as the three girls are concerned, whose fates do not turn out too badly.
For the next page, students use creative writing to see the book from the perspective of a journalist. “Lettie and Martha: Are they who they say they are?” This is a good question indeed, because no — they are not for part of the story. Those two sisters trade places using a spell to make them look like each other for part of the time. No one wants to trade places with poor Sophie.
Character traits are important in any story, and these characters have interesting traits. Students will decide which traits belong to the different characters.
There are some pages for creative writing such as this one, “fortune-telling hats.”
This packet has four read-and-respond work pages for students to demonstrate knowledge of the reading material. The pages include matching, circle the answer, and writing to finish the cause and effect work page. Answer keys are provided for the teacher.
Creative writing pages to accompany the story are included for students to paraphrase or apprentice themselves to the writing in the book for clever answers.
Discussion question pages for the book and the movie are included. Each page has 10 questions each. Students should consult the text as necessary to support their ideas.