Yes, more Pratchett. Don't look at me that way! It's summer! And I'm reading as many books as I can in order to get in some more entries for the Seattle Public Library's summer reading drawing, which ends 8/31. I'll get back to the classics next month.
A Hat Full of Sky is very much a girls' book. It's a Discworld novel, but not aggressively. Pratchett has reined in his rampant footnotes and digressions and Ankh-Morpork makes no appearances. This has a very local, very anywhere-fantasy-land, and a very YA feel to it and there are no 'barriers to entry' for readers who are unfamiliar with the rest of (extraordinarily long) series. So much so, in fact, that I wonder if this was written with the American YA market in mind.
It's about Tiffany Aching, who is eleven and being sent away from home to be an apprentice to a witch. That's OK, making cheese on the farm was getting old, even though she was very good at it, and apparently in some previous book she proved herself to have some magical talents that probably need training up. Tiffany is very likeable and feels totally natural as a character. I'm surprised Pratchett does girls so well! There is a particular scene where Tiffany makes a mis-step with a group of her peers which made me redden in sympathy for her.
Tiffany isn't just magically talented, she also has a special relationship with several tiny blue men - The Wee Free Men of the previous installment. They are drunken, rowdy, very funny, and just want to help Tiffany. With everything. Sometimes this is a bad thing. But when a powerful magical creature begins to stalk her, they are determined to help.
The final conflict had more than a bit of Deus Ex Machina to it, but the way there was so amusing that I can't help but love this and recommend it.