I was twelve years old and my family had just arrived at a motel for the night: me, my little brother, our grandparents, and an uncle, all of us on the way to the beach. I'd seen the beach before, but not since I was three. Our motel was in North Carolina somewhere and we didn't really need to stop--it's a ten-hour drive from East Tennessee to the Carolina coast--but our grandparents liked to leave early and stay overnight on the way so that we'd arrive at our beach rental house around noon instead of late at night and tired.
I remember being excited that the ground next to the parking lot was sandy. We were almost there!
And I remember lying on my bed in the hotel room and opening a new book I'd brought with me for the trip: Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. Within a few sentences, I'd forgotten all about the sandy ground outside, the beach tomorrow, the argument I'd had with my grandmother about my toothbrush (I'd forgotten it and she wasn't happy with me). I was Sirius, a godlike creature punished for someone else's crime by being banished into the body of a dog on Earth, nearly drowned at birth, and rescued by a girl in nearly as much trouble as I was.
It was my first introduction to Diana Wynne Jones's books. Since then I've read almost everything she's written. Dogsbody remains one of my favorites, together with A Tale of Time City, The Homeward Bounders, Deep Secret, Dark Lord of Dirkholm, and all the Chrestomanci books. I don't know any writer who could capture a child's way of thinking quite so perfectly. Her books are endlessly inventive and lively, funny and tragic.
Diana Wynne Jones died yesterday. It almost feels like something bright has vanished from the world.