Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

By: Ruby A.

         In Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie Hatter sets out to seek her fortune and find a way to break the curse set on her, tasks that everyone believes are impossible. 

Howl’s Moving Castle was written in such a way that the reader is entranced, but does not know that the book is really a mystery novel until it is resolved.  Jones uses magic, mystery, and even chapter titles to wrap the storyline around the reader until the reader cannot put the book down.  Once the reader is captured by the story, the theme comes up and shows that false identities change how a person thinks and acts.  Finally, using the theme of disguise, it is shown that just because something is thought true, that does not make it so.

Throughout Howl there are many disguises and false identities.  Jones states many things about these disguises.  The first is that appearances often change how one acts.  Sophie is more confident under her curse, a spell that has changed her into an old woman.  Similarly, the wizard Howl feels in control behind his disguises and lies.  This illustrates that when someone uses a different identity she does not feel threatened by judgment.  At a masquerade ball a timid, shy girl can ask a boy she would like to dance (if she knows where he is) because no one knows it is her, and cannot judge or make fun of her for asking that boy.

Disguises are often used because of fear.  Many characters in this book are afraid of what others would think of them if they were themselves, leading the characters to engage in more lies. And, conversely, when a character drops her lies and false identities is when she is at her most courageous because she no longer has anything to hide behind.  When Sophie finally drops her disguise as an old woman, she is no longer scared.  She knows that she is brave and strong enough to protect herself without it.

Jones uses both magic and mystery to engross the reader through out the entire story.  There are such things as seven-league boots (that enable the wearer to walk seven leagues in one stride) and the ability to talk life into objects.  There are no magic wands, and spells are closer to what is thought of as potions in Harry Potter.  Magic takes the disguises and makes them twice as good as they would be without it.  It is much easier to fool people when there is a complex spell, or two, in between.  This type of magic is new and unknown to readers but Jones does an artful job of explaining such things just enough to incorporate them smoothly into the storyline.  In most stories that include magic, magic is the whole plot, but in Howl magic is a complement to the storyline.  It helps deepens the message of the book. 

Disguises are not only used when one is fearful, but also when one is running away from destiny.  The destinies of the three Hatter sisters are not their own, but those assigned to them by an old wives tale.  When the sisters decide that they do not want that destiny they use disguise so that they can do what they please and not disturb anyone by not conforming.  At the end of the book the three sisters, the other characters, and the reader realize that everyone should follow the destiny they want, and not to be restricted by what others think.  Just because something is commonly thought does not make it true.

Disguise enters another time, but this time it is to increase reading enjoyment.  Howl is a mystery disguised as an adventure.  In the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Rowling uses one last and engaging mystery to resolve the story, and enthrall the reader, similar to how Jones does.  The big difference between the two is that in Harry Potter, Harry solves the mystery before the reader does which can be captivating and encourage the reader to finish the book.  But it can also discourage the reader into thinking that she missed a piece of the puzzle.  This is not so in Howl.  Sophie does not understand the whole mystery and does not solve it until the very last page, along with the reader. This writing style is even more captivating than the way Rowling writes the last passages of Harry Potter.

Synthetica

By Ben H.

Dreams so real, breathing underwater.

False lights for a sun,

An outsider’s escape from a broken heart.

Nothing but time to rot away

as the warmth of the void consumes you,

Seducing with unlikely promises.

A lonely meeting place,

Plagued with stale conversations and unraveling lies.

Are we the beginning of youth without youth?

African Safari

Eli B.

Over the 2012 winter break, I (Eli B.) went to Kenya and Tanzania (both are in Africa).  My itinerary went like this:

1.  Two days in Kenya
2.  Two days at Tarangire National Park
3.  One day at Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area
4.  Two days in the Southern Serengeti (Ndutu)
5.  Two days in the Central Serengeti (Seronera)
6.  Two days at Chumbe Island Coral Park
7.  One day at Stone Town, Zanzibar

In Kenya we stayed at the Macushla House in Nirobi. It was a very nice place and a giraffe sanctuary was only a 10-minute walk away. We also went to the David Sheldrich Wildlife Trust. There we saw young elephants that had been orphaned when poachers killed their mothers. The David Sheldrich Wildlife Trust was started by David Sheldrich (1919-1977) and has been continued through his family. If you donate some money, you get to become a ‘parent’ of an orphaned elephant or rhino. It’s just like the zoo parent program at the Albuquerque Zoo and is sort of like bragging rights. My elephant’s name is Barsilinga (bar-sil-eeng-ah). Barsilinga was born on March 28, 2012, and was two weeks old when brought to the David Sheldrich Wildlife Trust. Barsilinga was found next to his dying mother who was euthanized because her wounds were too severe.

Next we crossed the border to Tanzania where we met our guide an hour later. Our guide’s name was Hashim and our cook’s, Shambo. Shambo cooked the best food I have ever had. It was all Tanzanian style food. My favorite dish was Beef Stew. Our guide Hashim was an extremely good spotter and an excellent driver.

At the main gate we saw a troop of Vervet Monkeys. As we entered the park, we saw a herd of Zebra in the distance, a troop of Baboons, some Hornbills, and plenty of Peafowl. Then we arrived at our special campsite. A special campsite is a campsite where we bring our own camping supplies and camp in sleeping bags. The other option is to sleep at a tented campsite or a lodge. Tented campsites are semi-permanent campsites. The lodges are just like hotels. I stayed at special campsites most of the time, but at Ndutu I stayed at a tented campsite. I also visited a lodge and went swimming in the pool at the lodge. I prefer the special campsites because it was a very fun experience to go camping in Africa. I also really enjoy the tented campsites, but do not wish to stay at a lodge.

In Tarangire we also saw our first Ostrich, Impala, Dik Dik, Leopard Tortoise, Masai Giraffe, Grant’s Gazelle, Honey Badger (Hashim said he had never seen a Honey Badger during the day in his 20 years of guiding), Hammerkop (bird), Warthog, Dwarf Mongoose, Monitor Lizard, and Lion, as well as an assortment of birds including eagles and vultures.

Then after two nights at Tarangire, we were on the road to Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro crater is a crater that is a mile high in the center of the crater, 7,000 feet on the rim, and 14 miles in diameter. At Ngorongoro crater we saw plenty of Zebra , plenty of Cape Buffalo, Plenty of Wildebeest, some Baboons, plenty of Thomson’s Gazelles, our first Spotted Hyena, our fist Jackal, our first Crowned Crane, and four Rhinos!!

Ngorongoro was amazing. The only downside was that it was really cold. We saw lots of animals. I think Ngorongoro crater was the most concentrated area for animals.

Then we were on the road again to the Southern Serengeti – Ndutu. At Ndutu we stayed at a tented campsite. It was pretty nice! We had a working toilet (as opposed to a hole in the ground), and had great food (Shambo was not our cook though). In Ndutu we saw lots of animals including Secretary Birds, Bat-eared Foxes, six or so Cheetahs, some dung beetles, and two male Lions. On the first day that we arrived, we saw a Wildebeest that had died of natural causes right near our campsite. Over the next two days we would visit it and see what the vultures had done to the carcass.

Then we drove north to Seronera. At Seronera we saw Hippos, storks, a very well hidden crocodile, a Leopard, an African Land Snail, two little brown birds attacking their reflection in the car mirror, and lots of the animals we had seen before. Seronera was really wet. It rained a lot, but we still had fun.

Then we took off in a very small plane from the Seronera Air Strip. We said our goodbyes and were on our way to Zanzibar, the birthplace of Freddie Mercury. We immediately took a boat to Chumbe Island, a laid back, Coral Reef Conservation Island. At Chumbe we went snorkeling everyday. It was a very laid back, flexible place. There we saw hermit crabs, coconut crabs, corals, and a million different fish. We also stayed in a very nice bungalow.

After two days at Chume Island, we went to Stone Town, Zanzibar. There we saw an old slave trading place, a market place, and the very small streets of Stone Town.

Overall the trip was amazing! I was so amazed at the beauty of Africa. So now you know that when planning a trip for winter break, think about Africa.

More to come online…also:  In the next paper copy of the Jeffersonian, you can read the complete story with pictures taken by Eli during his trip.