Another World Is Colliding With This One, Said The Toad All The Monsters Are Coming Back Why Said Tiffany There S No One To Stop Them There Was Silence For A MomentThen Tiffany Said, There S Me Armed Only With A Frying Pan And Her Common Sense, Tiffany Aching, A Young Witch To Be, Is All That Stands Between The Monsters Of Fairyland And The Warm, Green Chalk Country That Is Her Home Forced Into Fairyland To Seek Her Kidnapped Brother, Tiffany Allies Herself With The Chalk S Local Nac Mac Feegle Aka The Wee Free Men A Clan Of Sheep Stealing, Sword Wielding, Six Inch High Blue Men Who Are As Fierce As They Are Funny Together They Battle Through An Eerie And Ever Shifting Landscape, Fighting Brutal Flying Fairies, Dream Spinning Dromes, And Grimhounds Black Dogs With Eyes Of Fire And Teeth Of Razors Before Ultimately Confronting The Queen Of The Elves, Absolute Ruler Of A World In Which Reality Intertwines With Nightmare And In The Final Showdown, Tiffany Must Face Her Cruel Power AloneIn A Riveting Narrative That Is Equal Parts Suspense And Humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett Returns To His Internationally Popular Discworld With A Breathtaking Tale Certain To Leave Fans, New And Old, Enthralled Usually, I m at a loss when it comes to Christmas gifts I don t like to give articles of clothing and gift cards feel too impersonal I get by with the occasional bottle of perfume, compilation album or with some silly toy, but this year I think I ve stumbled on a real gem I bought The Wee Free Men because it is by Pratchett and because it says on the back cover the heroine is nine year s old Turns out is is one of the very best in the whole Discworld catalogue, one of the funniest but also one of sir Terry s most serious and heart warming offerings Like the best of Pixar movies, it should appeal to youngsters and grown ups equally And I have to buy a second copy for a gift, in order to keep the one I read for myself.Another bonus is that readers unfamiliar with the Discworld setting should have no problems starting right here The quality of the writing is much improved compared to some of the early books in the series, the location is new The Chalk is an isolated corner of the flat world, concerned almost exclusively with sheep farming and the lead character, Tiffany Aching makes her debut here I believe the pictsies they re NOt the same thing as pixies also show up here for the first time, although they may have had a walk in guest appearance in some earlier story.The book is about witches, friends in need, family, dreams It is also about self awareness, self determination and courage, regardless of the size or age of the protagonist Last but not least, because we re talking about Terry Pratchett here, it is also about the humorous subversion of popular myths and concepts like the cute, sparkly and benevolent fairies and about thinking outside the box.Crivens I should probably cut the generalities and be specific Young sheepfarmer daughter Tiffany comes from a very old family in the Chalk a place that seemes almost frozen in time, unchanging in its traditions and occupations since times immemorial She helps around the farm, reads dictionaries from start to finish nobody told her she s not supposed to , babysits her sticky I Want Candy younger brother Wentworth, and likes to tickle trout in the nearby stream in her leisure time Problems arise when another world touches on the real one, opening magical portals and letting various monsters and horrors pass through Tiffany deals with the first ones summarily Remember Tangled and the iron frying pan , but things get really serious when her brother Wenthworth goes missing To rescue him, Tiffany must go into the magical world beyond the gate, where the Queen of Fairyland rules through the power of dreams Luckily for her, some unexpected allies with a talent for breaking entering where they re not supposed to show up They are the Nac Mac Feegles Also known as pictsies They call themselves the Wee Free MenThere were hundreds They rose up from behind buckets They lowered themselves on string from the ceiling beams They sidled sheepishly from behind the cheese racks They crept from under the sink They came out of places where you d think a man with hair like an orange nova couldn t possibly hide.They were all about six inches tall and mostly colored blue, although it was hard to know if that was the actual color of their skins or just the dye from their tattoos, which covered every inch that wasn t covered with red hair They wore short kilts, and some wore other bits of clothing too, like skinny vests A few of them wore rabbit or rat skulls on their heads, as a sort of helmet And every single one of them carried, slung across his back, a sword nearly as big as he was They like stealing, drinking and fighting and use their heads only as battering rams on their adversaries They speak a delightful variant of Scottish brogueWe is no strangers to the piscatorial an nautical arts, ye kenand have twee little names like Rob Anything or Not as big as Medium Sized Jock but bigger than Wee Jock Jock The pictsies may be an unruly, undependable, amoral, drunken mob with volatile tempers, but they are good to have by your side in a fight Here are some examples of their warrior criesThey can tak oour lives but they canna tak oour troousers Ye ll tak the high road an I ll tak yer wallet There can be only one t ousand Ach, stick it up yer trakkans Nae King Nae Quin Nae Laird Nae master We wilna be fooled again My favorite of the bunch is Daft Wullie who never thinks before he opens his mouth and whose candor about the illegal activities of the pictsies provided many laughs along the journey In contrast to Daft Wullie, Tiffany has some abilities that make her a very special young girl She thinks carefully before comitting herself to speak, she cares about her flock and her people, she s good with her hands Most of all she is inquisitive the best kind of kids, one of those that are forever asking questions and are curious about the surrounding world Apparently these are all the necessary qualifications to become a witch, only nobody can tell her where to apply to go to witch school All she can do is stare hard at people, at the world around her, at the problems facing herTiffany s Second Thoughts said Hang on, was that a First Thought And Tiffany thought No, that was a Third Thought I m thinking about how I think about what I m thinking At least, I think so.Her Second Thoughts said Let s all calm down, please, because this is quite a small head I almost forgot about another magical helper that the girl receives from a visiting older witch Miss Tick , namely a sarcastic talking toad, cursed by an angry fairy godmother for injuries undisclosed at the start of the novel view spoiler he s a lawyer hide spoiler I will never be able to write a book as good as this.I just finished reading it again This is probably my third or fourth time I love all of Pratchett s books It s easy to do, as the best of them are utterly excellent, while the worst of them is merely great This, I think, might be his best And I love it for so many reasons It is diamond beyond price among the other brilliant but perhaps lesser diamonds.Part of me wants to quote parts of it to you But I won t Out of context you can t feel the weight of them.I love the main character A little girl who is smart and strong and uncertain and proud.I wish I had a little girl, so I could give her this book I wish I could give a copy of this book for every little girl in the world I want them to meet Tiffany And even if they don t want to be like Tiffany, I want them to know that she exists That she is possible I wish I could give a copy of this book to every little boy in the world, too I want them to meet Tiffany And even if they don t want to be like her, I want them to know that she exists, that she is possible I wish I could read this book to my little boy But he s only five, and parts of it would spook him, and other parts he wouldn t understand Maybe in a year he will be ready.If you haven t read this book, you really should You ll enjoy it a little if you re familiar with Pratchett s Work, but that s not essential.When I grow up, I want to be Tiffany Aching. I plan to use this book in the future as a strategic weapon for introducing my future, hypothetical daughter to the world of Terry Pratchett s imagination Yes, I see it as a gateway drug to fuel addiction to Sir Terry s writing And that s the addiction I m happy to perpetuate.After all, this book introduces Tiffany Aching whom I love to pieces and want to adopt to be my level headed and practical little sisterYes I m me I am careful and logical and I look up things I don t understand When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy I am good with cheese I read books fast I think And I always have a piece of string That s the kind of person I amThis book is written to be accessible to kids and adults alike since Pratchett does not stoop to the condescending and patronizing attitude that can easily plague the story written for ahem younger members of society No, you see, Pratchett seems to believe that intelligent young characters, as well as intelligent young readers, obviously, are perfectly capable of following stories with several layers of complexity in them Zoology, eh That s a big word, isn t it No, actually it isn t, said Tiffany Patronizing is a big word Zoology is really quite short. This book is also quite accessible to those who are just starting their journey into the superficially magical but actually very firmly grounded in reality and not afraid to deal with uncomfortable issues and ask uncomfortable questions world that Pratchett created And please don t be fooled that the action takes place on a flat planet traveling through space on the back of four elephants standing on a back of a giant space turtle the issues he writes about are quite applicable to the lives of people on a giant blue green ball hurtling through space while circling along the hot yellow Sun.In The Wee Free Men, nine year old Tiffany Aching, a budding witch in a country that does not take kindly to witchcraft, has her first encounters with the supernatural world of Discworld Intelligent and reasonable and practical, she takes it quite in stride and so when her world is threatened by the invasion of monsters from the not so nice fairy tales, she firmly stands her ground, armed with little but a frying pan, analytical reasoning, common sense and Third ThoughtsAnd Tiffany thought No, that was a Third Thought I m thinking about how I think about what I m thinking At least, I think soand supported by a rowdy clan of the Mac Nag Feegle the titular Wee Free Men a race of blue skinned six inch tall pesky warriors who speak in vaguely Scottish dialect and are terrified of the evil also known as LawyersAnother world is colliding with this one, said the toad There Happy now That s what Miss Tick thinks But it s happening faster than she expected All the monsters are coming back Why There s no one to stop them There was silence for a moment There s me, said Tiffany. In this book, Pratchett creates equally memorable settings that are polar opposites of each other On one hand, we have The Chalk a land of green hills that are suited for shepherding and populated by sturdy rural folk that do not take kindly to things like witchcraftingOrdinary fortune tellers tell you what you want to happen witches tell you what s going to happen whether you want it to or not Strangely enough, witches tend to be accurate but less popularIn fact, they d prefer to burn witches for little less than the suspicion of being one You see, most people there, unlike Tiffany, do not stop to think about what they re doing and why they re doing it But Tiffany is not the one to go along with the crowd thinking without stopping to think for herself and question her motives and reasons.On the other side of Tiffany s reality, there is the Fairie, a surreal dream like place and when I say dream like, I m referring not to the warm fluffy place of children s book but the dreams from which you wake up screaming and covered in sweatThis is a dream, after all, Tiffany told herself It doesn t have to make sense, or be nice It s a dream, not a daydream People who say things like May all your dreams come true should try living in one for five minutesBut nothing in this fantastical and yet horrifying world is ever prepared for Tiffany with her logical mind and common sense and fierce desire to protect anything that is hers Yes I m me I am careful and logical and I look up things I don t understand When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy I am good with cheese I read books fast I think And I always have a piece of string That s the kind of person I amThe best thing about Tiffany Aching, a budding witch in the country that does not approve of witchcraft, is her propensity to question things and information that others take for granted She bases her conclusions on evidence, and is able to think and reason intelligently Not too many young literary heroines have actually shown this ability even though some of them claim they have For this alone, I want to give her a huge bear hug and invite her to sleepovers with my future, hypothetical daughterAnd all the stories had, somewhere, the witch The wicked old witch.And Tiffany had thought, Where s the evidence The stories never said why she was wicked It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you had no teeth It was enough to be called a witch.If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything It talked about a handsome prince was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called him handsome As for a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long well, which day In midwinter it hardly ever got light The stories didn t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were toldAnyway, she preferred the witches to the smug handsome princes and especially to the stupid smirking princesses, who didn t have the sense of a beetle She couldn t be the prince, and she d never be a princess, and she didn t want to be a woodcutter, so she d be the witch and know thingsYes, this is my favorite thing about Tiffany she wants to be a witch because she wants to know things Just think about it how awesome is it Isn t it the opposite of what popular culture tries to teach young girls to be pretty princesses just waiting for the Prince CharmingOpen your eyes and then open your eyes again The thing about witchcraft, said Mistress Weatherwax, is that it s not like school at all First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin out how you passed it It s a bit like life in that respectTiffany has a highly logical and practical mind She stops to think about things She is reasonable and level headed She is fiercely protective of the things she loves And she is awesome She is the role model every young girl should have She is what I hope to be on a daily basis and unfortunately, I keep miserably failing at that Oh, and did I mention that she is wickedly smartShe d read the dictionary all the way through No one told her you weren t supposed toand has a strong sense of justice and fairness After all, her worldview was influenced by her legendary shepherdess grandmother, perhaps a bit a a witch herselfwho, I think, could be a soul sister of Granny Weatherwax , and Tiffany has internalized her grandmother s philosophy quite wellThem as can do has to do for them as can t And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices. From her first action of smacking the supernatural invader with a frying panafter carefully and thoroughly planning out her defense, of courseto her final act of saving her little corner of the universe, Tiffany manages to be an awesome role model for girls everywhere sharp, intelligent, critically thinking, resourceful and never in the need of saving as well as remaining a very believable nine year old girl, both selfish and selfless at the same time, both brave and frightened, sweet and prickly, and curious, determined and fiercely protective of what s hers And she can stretch the definition of HERS pretty far the knack that her world should be thankful for All witches are selfish, the Queen had said But Tiffany s Third Thoughts said Then turn selfishness into a weapon Make all things yours Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours Protect them Save them Bring them into the sheepfold Walk the gale for them Keep away the wolf My dreams My brother My family My land My world How dare you try to take these things, because they are mineAt the end of her adventure, Tiffany does something that not that many heroines of books aimed at younger people do she genuinely grows up, gains some maturity that is amazing and yet sad at the same time sad because it s always a part of the emotions I feel when realizing that someone is slowly losing their childhood innocence bit by bit, changing from a child to someone with responsibilityand your age, really, has little bearing on whether you are an adult, after all. She no longer is just a little girl she is a girl armed with knowledge and power with which, of course, apparently comes great responsibility and she takes it on with the same quiet resignation and determination as she does anything elseI ll never be like this again, she thought, as she saw the terror in the Queen s face I ll never again feel as tall as the sky and as old as the hills and as strong as the sea I ve been given something for a while, and the price of it is that I have to give it back.And the reward is giving it back, too No human could live like this You could spend a day looking at a flower to see how wonderful it is, and that wouldn t get the milking done No wonder we dream our way through our lives To be awake, and see it all as it really is no one could stand that for longWonderful Tiffany art by Iberghol and JazzySatinDollThe secret is not to dream, she whispered The secret is to wake up Waking up is harder I have woken up and I am real I know where I come from and I know where I m going You cannot fool me any Or touch me Or anything that is mineThis book is an easy 5 star read I adore it and will definitely sneak it onto the future hypothetical to read pile for my future hypothetical daughterShe d never really liked the book It seemed to her that it tried to tell her what to do and what to think Don t stray from the path, don t open that door, but hate the wicked witch because she is wicked Oh, and believe that shoe size is a good way of choosing a wife A lot of the stories were highly suspicious, in her opinion There was the one that ended when the two good children pushed the wicked witch into her own oven Tiffany had worried about that after all that trouble with Mrs Snapperly Stories like this stopped people thinking properly, she was sure She d read that one and thought, Excuse me No one has an oven big enough to get a whole person in, and what made the children think they could just walk around eating people s houses in any case And why does some boy too stupid to know a cow is worth a lot than five beans have the right to murder a giant and steal all his gold Not to mention commit an act of ecological vandalism And some girl who can t tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother must either have been as dense as teak or come from an extremely ugly family The stories weren t real But Mrs Snapperly had died because of stories I m a huge fan of dangerous books for boys I love classic boys literature, whether Dumas s Count of Monte Cristo , Kipling s Jungle Book , Burroughs A Princess of Mars , Tolkien s The Hobbit , or Heinlein s juvenile fiction I love good stories that instruct boys in being adults I love them for being persistently politically incorrect, not just now but then I love them because they are stories by people who obviously know boys and know what they need And, I love them for just being fun and exciting adventure stories They abide, despite the distaste of limp wristed educators that would rather that little boys don t read them and are horrified when boys play with pretend weapons I see that and I see someone that hates boys, and for that matter doesn t have a particularly high opinion of girls either Far be it from me to be a child hater who insists that little boys and girls never be messy, smelly, or wild You can t learn bravery or wisdom if you learn nothing about risk You can t learn to be gentle if you aren t first strong.But I don t have boys I have two girls That isn t to say that I don t intend to read to them all the great boy s literature, because I don t think that boys and girls are all so different as all of that But, there just aren t a lot of dangerous books for girls There aren t many daring books which feature female protagonists and address the question of growing up through a girl s eyes in ways that I approve of Even Rowling s Harry Potter , features at its heart, a daring young man, not a daring young woman And too much young adult literature for girls makes girls lives seem like they are all about boys and spend too little time on the other important things.So of course, if you ve read this book, you can imagine my joy at finding a story which is in the model of the best boy s literature but has as its protagonist a girl And what a girl If you haven t read, The Wee Free Men , the protagonist is young Tiffany Aching, shepherd girl and cheese maker, who you ll fall in love with by the end of the first chapter She s little, but she is doughty To give anything away about the plot would be unfair to the reader The story is set on Pratchett s Discworld, but the connections are very loose and the reader gives up only a few easter eggs by not having read anything else in the series There is no need to read Lords and Ladies or have an existing relationship with Granny Weatherwax than there is a need to read the Silmarillion before reading The Lord of the Rings So go ahead and open this story up, be you young or old, boy or girl, fan of fantasy or no this is a treasure.I love reading to my girls, but I sometimes get anxious for the probably all too quickly coming days when I can read something to them with meat something which is nearer and dearer to my heart If I could only read them two fiction books, I d read them Tolkien s The Hobbit and Pratchett s The Wee Free Men It s of that stature.Some of my readers being who they are, or knowing who I am may wonder that I d so recommend this tale of witchcraft Well, for one thing, there isn t a lot of actual witchcraft in the craft that Pratchett teaches The problem with the word witch is that it means so many different things to so many different people, that it really means nothing unless you know what it is pointing to In Pratchett s case, the word witch might as well mean nerd , because they are essentially pointing to the same idea But, for people that don t know that words are merely pointers, and have no meaning until they are addressed and dereferenced, or who are uncomfortable with that, let me add this addition I m my children s parent, not a book There isn t anything made by man which doesn t have a something in it which isn t fully edifying I can round off the rough corners of my children s developing understanding fairly easily I can talk with them about what they read I would have to do that no matter what they read, for there is nothing written in the tongues of men that can t be misunderstood What I can t do so easily is inspire children I can t so easily make them care and make them excited so that they know something not just in their heads but also in their hearts For that, I need the help of stories, and this is a good one filled with many things that are virtuous and true I m not going to let any minor confusion get in the way of that.