‘You can’t grow a witch on chalk,’ says travelling witch Miss Tick to her toad. And yet, here she is, Tiffany Aching, nine years old and seeing off monsters and headless horsemen with nothing more than a frying pan and attitude … oh, and a bunch of tiny, wild, blue-skinned pictsies who consider themselves answerable to no one.
If you’ve read any of Terry Pratchett’s books before, you’ll know how this goes. The story wanders around, with lots of funny and thoughtful asides and ways at looking at things you’ve never stopped to think about before that’ll make you do just that: stop and think. It’s an adventure, of course, simpler than his adult Discworld novels, but, if you already love Discworld you’ll recognise your surroundings (and there’s Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg to look forward to at the end).
And if you’ve never read any Terry Pratchett before … Well, first allow me to go ‘What? You’ve NEVER READ any Terry Pratchett?’ Then I’ll take a deep breath and tell you why you should (possibly with a little tear in my eye, ’cos he’s just died and I think he’s very special).
So, number one reason you should read him is that he writes (wrote, sniff) entertaining stories set in an extraordinarily detailed world which plays with the absurdities of our own world.
Reason number two. Terry Pratchett’s books exude humanity. They show you what it is to be fair and empathetic and good. But you might not even notice that they’re doing it, as you giggle your way through the silliness. They should ditch school assemblies and whatever and just read stuff out of Terry Pratchett.
Reason number three. They’re so clever! There are Discworld books about religion and money and Shakespeare and war and opera and … all manner of things, and all of it leaves you THINKING (once you’ve stopped laughing – or even while you’re laughing).
Reason number four. Did I mention that they’re funny! Really, I have no sense of humour, but Terry Pratchett …
Reason number five. Death. He’s not in this book, but when you get to him, you’ll really like him. Try Mort when you finish the four Tiffany Aching books. You’ll like Mort.
OK, so I’m going on about Terry Pratchett in general, and actually you want to know why you should read The Wee Free Men. You should read it for itself because it’ll take you to places that didn’t exist before in your head but feel like they’ve always been there and because it’s a way into Discworld if you’ve never read any Terry Pratchett before. It’s not as complex as the adult novels but it has the same tone. And if you’re already a fan, you should read it because, well, because obviously you should read everything Terry Pratchett has written. There aren’t going to be any more. (Probably.)
by Claire Watts