Chair Person is a short novel for younger children, first published in 1989. It was published in the collection Stopping For A Spell in 1993, and now can be found together with Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? in Vile Visitors. As often is the case with DWJ’s books for younger children, I didn’t find it quite as memorable as her other works, but – it was a fun read.
Like the stories I’ve read so far from Unexpected Magic, this story seemed to deal with a type of person that Diana Wynne Jones probably hated. The two children, Marcia and Simon, were discussing with their parents over the problem of their old striped armchair (that no one ever comfortably sat on) when they were visited by Auntie Christa, who wasn’t really an aunt. Auntie Christa was the first of their vile visitors – the sort of person who ordered everyone about, and who supported a variety of “causes” without ever listening to what anyone really wanted, and then guilt-tripped others into doing her bidding anyway. She sat on their armchair and bullied the children’s mother into getting tea and cookies, while showing the children gifts she had collected for underpriviledged children she was throwing a party for. One of these gifts was a conjuring set from a junk store, which leaked onto the chair. She tapped on the chair with the wand from the set, but of course, nothing happened.
She flew out of the house as quickly as she flew in, but not before telling the family that they were hosting the Africa Aid meeting on Saturday morning, and helping out with the party for underpriviledged children in the evening.
The family moved the now-wet armchair to the garden shed, but when their parents went out to buy a new chair the next day, Marcia and Simon heard thumping sounds from the shed. Checking to see if they had locked the neighbour’s dog in, they found that the chair had turned into a man who called himself Chair Person, and who guilted and bullied everyone into doing what he wanted, much in the same way as Auntie Christa.
In both this story and in Angus Flint, the parents ended up not being able to do anything about their unwelcome guest, leaving it up to the children to save the day. I liked the children in this story, too – Marcia and Simon were resourceful and funny, and handled the situation much better than all of the adults. Chair Person may not have the depth of DWJ’s works for older children, but it’s definitely something I think my niece might enjoy.