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The Wee Free Men

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The Wee Free Men Cover

ISBN13: 9780060012366
ISBN10: 0060012366
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Excerpt

Chapter One
A Clang Well Done

Some things start before other things.

It was a summer shower but didn't appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm.

Miss Perspicacia Tick sat in what little shelter a raggedy hedge could give her and explored the universe. She didn't notice the rain. Witches dried out quickly.

The exploring of the universe was being done with a couple of twigs tied together with string, a stone with a hole in it, an egg, one of Miss Tick's stockings (which also had a hole in it), a pin, a piece of paper, and a tiny stub of pencil. Unlike wizards, witches learn to make do with a little.

The items had been tied and twisted together to make a . . . device. It moved oddly when she prodded it. One of the sticks seemed to pass right through the egg, for example, and came out the other side without leaving a mark.

"Yes," she said quietly, as rain poured off the rim of her hat. "There it is. A definite ripple in the walls of the world. Very worrying. There's probably another world making contact. That's never good. I ought to go there. But . . . according to my left elbow, there's a witch there already."

"She'll sort it out, then," said a small and, for now, mysterious voice from somewhere near her feet.

"No, it can't be right. That's chalk country over that way," said Miss Tick. "You can't grow a good witch on chalk. The stuff's barely harder than clay. You need good hard rock to grow a witch, believe me." Miss Tick shook her head, sending raindrops flying. "But my elbows are generally very reliable." "Why talk about it? Let's go and see," said the voice. "We're not doing very well around here, are we?"

That was true. The lowlands weren't good to witches. Miss Tick was making pennies by doing bits of medicine and misfortune — telling, and slept in barns most nights. She'd twice been thrown into ponds.

"I can't barge in," she said. "Not on another witch's territory. That never, ever works. But . . ." She paused. "Witches don't just turn up out of nowhere. Let's have a look. . . ."

She pulled a cracked saucer out of her pocket and tipped into it the rainwater that had collected on her hat. Then she took a bottle of ink out of another pocket and poured in just enough to turn the water black.

She cupped it in her hands to keep the raindrops out and listened to her eyes.

Tiffany Aching was lying on her stomach by the river, tickling trout. She liked to hear them laugh. It came up in bubbles.

A little way away, where the riverbank became a sort of pebble beach, her brother, Wentworth, was messing around with a stick, and almost certainly making himself sticky.

Anything could make Wentworth sticky. Washed and dried and left in the middle of a clean floor for five minutes, Wentworth would be sticky. It didn't seem to come from anywhere. He just got sticky. But he was an easy child to mind, provided you stopped him from eating frogs.

There was a small part of Tiffany's brain that wasn't too certain about the name Tiffany. She was nine years old and felt that Tiffany was going to be a hard name to live up to. Besides, she'd decided only last week that she wanted to be a witch when she grew up, and she was certain Tiffany just wouldn't work. People would laugh.

Another and larger part of Tiffany's brain was thinking of the word susurrus. It was a word that not many people have thought about, ever. As her fingers rubbed the trout under its chin, she rolled the word round and round in her head.

Susurrus . . . according to her grandmother's dictionary, it meant "a low soft sound, as of whispering or muttering." Tiffany liked the taste of the word. It made her think of mysterious people in long cloaks whispering important secrets behind a door: susurruss — susurrusss . . .

She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren't supposed to.

As she thought this, she realized that the happy trout had swum away. But something else was in the water, only a few inches from her face.

It was a round basket, no bigger than half a coconut shell, coated with something to block up the holes and make it float. A little man, only six inches high, was standing up in it. He had a mass of untidy red hair into which a few feathers, beads, and bits of cloth had been woven. He had a red beard, which was pretty much as bad as the hair. The rest of him that wasn't covered with blue tattoos was covered with a tiny kilt. And he was waving a fist at her and shouting:

"Crivens! Gang awa' oot o' here, ye daft wee hinny! 'Ware the green heid!"

With that he pulled at a piece of string that was hanging over the side of his boat, and a second red-headed man surfaced, gulping air.

"Nae time for fishin'!" said the first man, hauling him aboard. "The green heid's coming!"

"Crivens!" said the swimmer, water pouring off him. "Let's offski!"

And with that he grabbed one very small oar and, with rapid back and forth movements, made the basket speed away.

"Excuse me!" Tiffany shouted. "Are you fairies?"

But there was no answer. The little round boat had disappeared in the reeds.

Probably not, Tiffany decided.

Then, to her dark delight, there was a susurrus. There was no wind, but the leaves on the alder bushes by the riverbank began to shake and rustle. So did the reeds. They didn't bend, they just blurred. Everything blurred, as if something had picked up the world and was shaking it. The air fizzed. People whispered behind closed doors...

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Janet Hamilton, November 28, 2006 (view all comments by Janet Hamilton)
Tiffany Aching is a witch in training and a gutsy heroine who could serve as role model for many a youngster who does not hold their place in the world in high esteem. Readers are privileged to watch the quick witted sharp tongued Tiffany as she processes her own awareness of her innate wisdom. Tiffany is the star of this first book in a series of three. Her supporting cast consists of the blue skinned, red haired, Wee Free Men who are strangely bound to their own irreverent laws. Terry Pratchett is an exciting author with a uniquely humorous style that has enough depth and breadth to fascinate both adults and children, gifting us all with a delightful fantasy that's wrapped in fun.
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(5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
Patricia Norris-Landry, September 28, 2006 (view all comments by Patricia Norris-Landry)
This book, the first in the series, stands by itself in a world of nonsensical books for youth. Tiffany, despite her definitely non witchlike name, is a no nonsense young lady out to take on the world. Armed with her granny's knowledge, her frypan, her penchant for asking the right questions and with the help and sometimes hindrance, of the Nac MacFeegles Tiffany takes you on a rollicking and sometimes poignant romp through the hills and dells of the famed chalk country.
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(10 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060012366
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Subject:
Girls & Women
Author:
Pratchett, Terry
Author:
by Terry Pratchett
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - Fantasy
Subject:
Humorous Stories
Subject:
Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Fantasy
Subject:
Fairies
Subject:
Witches
Subject:
Action & Adventure - General
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Discworld
Publication Date:
April 29, 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.93 in 16.16 oz
Age Level:
09-12

Related Subjects

Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General

The Wee Free Men
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 272 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060012366 Reviews:
"Review" by , "The baby's rescue is accomplished with unrelenting drama, large servings of Pratchett's ironic humor, and a unique cast of characters....Set in a chillingly unrecognizable 'fairyland,' this ingenious mélange of fantasy, action, humor, and sly bits of social commentary contains complex underlying themes of the nature of love, reality, and dreams. The Carnegie Medal-winner's fans will not be disappointed."
"Review" by , "A glorious read."
"Review" by , "Just the package to appeal to those who admire not just a brave heart but a quick comeback as well."
"Review" by , "The humor and the danger will appeal to Discworld fans and also readers who relish J. K. Rowling's Harry."
"Synopsis" by , In a thrilling tale that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Pratchett spins the story of a young witch-to-be named Tiffany who must journey through the terrifying and ever-shifting dreamscape of Fairyland to rescue her kidnapped brother.

"Synopsis" by ,
"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 moment.

Then 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 kidnaped 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 alone....

In 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.

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