Lee took pity on me and finished Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith this morning. I swear I read more books in a month than he does in an entire year…

Wintersmith is part of the Tiffany Aching JV series. Tiffany is a young witch, living on the Chalk Hills (nowhere near Lancre). The first book, Hat Full of Sky, shows Tiffany at age 9; Wee Free Men shows her at 11. She’s 13 now…not a lucky number. She inadvertantly got herself mixed up with the Wintersmith, the spirit of winter, who thinks she’s an avatar of the Lady of Summer that he can finally get his elemental hands on, well, once he figures out how to make hands.

The book is great up to the ending, which doesn’t have the same power as Pratchett’s best books (the end of Thud!* was awesome). It isn’t a big failing, just not up to what I’d been hoping for. It’s almost like he ran out of wordcount…not badly plotted, just…rushed.

The thing that gets to me, though, is that this series (as with Pratchett’s other JV series) is a kind of anti-stupid instruction manual for kids. That is, anti-stupid up to the point where sometimes things flip around and you have to do something stupid, because that’s what has to be done. In this book, Tiffany is watching the Other Morris Dance (the one that welcomes in the winter), when her feet get the best of her and drag her into the dance…after she’s been told not to do it. Tiffany says she didn’t mean it, but the other witches laugh at her for not taking responsibility for herself. The rest of the book is Tiffany learning how to take responsibility for what happens, even if “it isn’t her fault” or “it isn’t her job.” And how to say no to unwanted advances, also a useful thing to know.

Entertainment for girls has changed from “support other people” to “take leadership; be powerful.” Wintersmith‘s message is “be yourself, but take responsibility for yourself, too.” Much more useful, I think.

* How Not to Be Stupid about War for Adults