The Illustrated Wee Free Men (Discworld)
by Terry Pratchett
Cover Artist: Stephen Player
Review by Gayle Surrette
HarperCollins Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061340802
Date: 01 October 2008 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett has been out and available for quite a while. However, I hadn't read it. But a few months ago I read Wintersmith and was completely charmed by the character Tiffany Aching. So, when The Illustrated Wee Free Men showed up, I couldn't resist.
Lavishly illustrated by Stephen Player, we get the story of Tiffany Aching at nine. She's curious about her world, her place in it, and quite thinking, practical, and observant. It all starts on the river bank, when a small basket containing a wee blue man drifts by on the river and warns her to run away. The warning is surprising, but Tiffany is resilient. When a creature turns up she takes care of it handily with a frying pan; using her little brother, Wentworth, as bait.
Later her brother is kidnapped by the Queen of Fairies, and Tiffany, feeling guilty for resenting her brother, sets out with the help of the Nac Mac Feegles to rescue him. Along the way, Tiffany deals with a host of problems, monsters, pictsies, keldas, and generally sticky situations that could confuse a nine-year-old. But Tiffany deals with it all in the straight on, no nonsense, manner, she learned from sitting silently with her Grandmother Aching.
The drawings not only illustrate scenes from the book, they are additional text and information -- pages from journals, lists, instructions, billboards, posters, and letters. Some of the drawings are full page or double page spreads. Some pictures have fold out sections that change the picture you're looking at, adding more information or changing the scene to fit. I found it a bit difficult to read text on tan paper that was shiny in light, but otherwise had no problems. (Okay, I'm old with tired eyes and reading glasses but I figure a warning for similarly sighted people who might want to read to children would be in order.)
As I thought, Tiffany is as charming and delightful as a child as she was as a teen. I think I really need to find a copy of A Hat Full of Sky to visit Tiffany again. I wonder why I'm being so behind the times in reading Terry Pratchett. If you haven't read his books, give them a try because the mix of serious philosophical thoughts and questions with outrageously funny silliness is a perfect blend for comfort reading.