|The Ogre Downstairs|
|Author||Diana Wynne Jones|
|UK Release Date||1974|
|US Release Date|
The Ogre Downstairs falls among Diana Wynne Jones' earlier works. They give the impression, which appears to be supported by some of her biographical sources, that they were written primarily for the amusement of her family -- specifically her three sons, who often complained about the stultifyingly preachy tone of so many books aimed at children in their time, and pointed out that what they really wanted to read more of was funny books.
This book, then, is one of those that is steeped in the atmosphere of Things That Are Funny to Boys Bored With Literature. In it, two families are blended by the marriage of two widowed parents, and the children of each family dislike those of the other. And the mother's children particularly dislike their new stepfather, and think of him as a kind of ogre. The stepfather gives one boy in each set of children a huge, elaborate chemistry set which turns out to have magical properties.
In discovering this, and exploring exactly what the magic does and what the rules are for having fun with it, both sets of kids come to accept and even grudgingly to like the ones from the other family. They even come to terms with the Ogre himself, who turns out to be quite a bit different from the way they first perceived him.
Caspar: Oldest in the family, Caspar is into listening to extremely loud rock music, loathing injustice, and practicing sarcasm. He has got quite good at it, too.
Johnny: The middle child, Johnny is the one who receives the chemistry set as an unexpected present from the Ogre, and thus sets in motion all the hijinks that ensue.
Gwinny: The youngest child, and a girl, Gwinny's considered by her brothers as responsible for the Ogre's presence in their blended family, since it was when she got lost at the library that the Ogre found her crying, and set out to fix things by buying her an ice cream and driving her home, thereby meeting her mother.
Douglas: Before the marriage, Douglas went to a posh boarding school, but now he has to attend the same comprehensive that his stepsiblings go to.
Malcolm: Malcolm is given a chemistry set identical to the one Johnny is given, and on the same day.