A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones' last, posthumous offering.
Most children hate orphanages, but Earwig—Erica Wigg, according to her birth certificate—loves hers. Earwig manages people to perfection, and everyone at Saint Morwald's Home for Children does exactly what Earwig wants, whether it's making her a shepherd's pie or buying her a new red sweater. She's excellent at making herself unlovable to potential foster parents so they'll leave her alone in sunny St. Morwald's. But a terrible new pair of prospective parents arrives at the home: nasty-faced Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, a ridiculously tall man who seems to have horns. Bella Yaga and the Mandrake cart Earwig off, willy-nilly, to powder rats' bones and cook breakfast. Indomitable Earwig determines that if she must work for a smelly witch, at least she'll learn magic. But how to do so when wicked Bella Yaga keeps threatening to give her worms? Moreover, no matter what, Earwig has been warned not to disturb the Mandrake, who trucks with demons. Earwig, illustrated with marvelous vitality by Zelinsky, is not to be trifled with. There's just the right level of grotesquerie and scariness (worms that are "blue and purple and very wriggly") in this utterly charming chapter book.
Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end. (Fantasy. 7-9)