Tuesdays we feature Old Favorites; books that have been around for awhile, but aren’t read as much as they should be. Today, our book is Eight Days of Luke, by my favorite author in the entire world–Diana Wynne Jones.
If you’re a fan of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter, this is a book that should appeal to you.
David Allard goes to boarding school in England, but every holiday he’s forced to stay with his horrible (but only) relatives; Great-Aunt Dot, Great-Uncle Bernard, their son Cousin Ronald and his wife, Astrid.
Arriving home for summer break, David is resigned to learn that the family has forgotten all about him. That would be fine, only they’ve also planned a month-long holiday cruise, and they certainly don’t want to bring David. (He might have too much fun!) So they decide to send him to board with a maths tutor and do lessons. Angered by their disregard for him, David goes outside and mutters what he hopes are curses as he circles the smelly compost heap in the back garden.
No one is more surprised than David when flames and two giant snakes erupt from the compost heap and attack. A mysterious boy with red hair comes to his rescue, and the two boys work together to fight the snakes, armed with a hoe and a spade from the garden shed.
The boy says his name is Luke, and thanks David for freeing him from a horrible prison. David doesn’t buy it, but because he likes Luke, he shares some of his troubles. Luke tells him to kindle a flame if he needs help, and takes off.
What follows is a series of adventures as David, still not quite believing but in trouble, lights a match and finds Luke nearby. Luke helps David escape the dreaded maths tutor, and is present as he forges a tentative partnership with Astrid. Is it a coincidence, or did the flame have something to do with it?
David’s life becomes very busy as he and Luke hang out together. But strange people start to show up in the neighborhood and every time he goes out. From the malevolent new gardener Mr. Chew, to the overly affable new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Fry, to the mysterious and apparently benevolent Mr. Wedding (who is always accompanied by two crows), David is plagued by people who seem to be looking for Luke. As the friendship between the boys grows, David starts to realize that there is something very strange about his mischief-making new friend, and that not everything is quite what it seems.
Diana Wynne Jones wrote this book in 1975, long before Percy Jackson or Harry Potter existed, but there are some parallels between the stories. While Percy is affiliated with the Greek gods and goddesses, David seems to have attracted a collection of Norse gods and goddesses into his life, and David’s relatives could give Harry’s Aunt Petunia and family a run for their money.
The storytelling is light and inventive, and the legends as well as the characters come to life for the reader just as they do to David. There’s humor as well as tragedy, adventure and sacrifice.
After finishing this book, you’ll definitely want to check out a couple books like the D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths or Mary Pope Osborne’s Favorite Norse Myths. I’d also be very happy if you wanted to read more Diana Wynne Jones, my favorite author. Feel free to ask us about other stories based on mythology too!