My daughter and I just started Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith, the third in his series of young adult novels featuring witch-in-training Tiffany Aching. We’d already read The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, the first two books about Tiffany, and my daughter enjoyed them both.

At first, she mainly enjoyed the Nac Mac Feegle, creatures who are a cross between fairies and the Mark Wahlberg character in The Departed, with heavy Scottish accents thrown in for good measure. She still likes them, as do I; but I think she’s also becoming much more interested in the character of Tiffany, and her development. I love the Feegle, but Tiffany is the most interesting character Pratchett has created since Sam Vimes, the policeman who figures prominently in a number of the Discworld books.

Doubtless there are groups who decry the books as Bad For Children, but in Pratchett’s world, witchcraft is about 5% supernatural, and 95% work, responsibility and social networking. The witches who dress like Stevie Nicks ca. 1978 and spend lots of time on the occult are always bested by the witches who wear boots and listen carefully to village gossip. So in the long run, I think reading the books probably drives down the odds of girls eventually joining a coven or getting into wiccan.

And for me, reading these books is a pleasure because Pratchett is one of my favorite authors, and one of the few I’m likely to be able to share with my children. He’s a real pleasure to read aloud, and it’ll be years before my daughter is old enough to read Alan Furst or William Gibson (much less Neal Stephenson or Dan Simmons). For the forseeable future, Pratchett will be a common literary reference point for us, and a genuinely literary one: you don’t read a Discworld novel with the movie adaptation superimposed on your imagination, as you do when you pick up a J. K Rowling book.

[To the tune of Elton John, “Crocodile Rock,” from the album “Greatest Hits”.]

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