Sad news over the weekend that Diana Wynne Jones has died. She was a terrific author, who had a decisive impact on Children’s Literature and Fantasy fiction in general. I first encountered her work as a grubby 10-year-old, when I picked up a copy of The Ogre Downstairs and was completely blown away. It was unlike anything I’d read before – a pungent mix of comedy, fantasy adventure and social realism that felt thoroughly original and completely up-to-date. Instead of some invented Tolkienesque world, full of grandeur, mythic conflicts and general portentousness, we had a dysfunctional modern family of squabbling step-siblings who acquire magical chemistry sets. The result: flying children, general chaos and, unforgettably, packs of toffee bars that come alive and start wriggling round the room. There was a wonderful lightness of touch and an inventive brio that was a world away from so much drab 1970s writing for children. Along with Terry Pratchett, who arrived soon afterwards, DWJ showed how comedy could be fused with fantasy, and she did this without jettisoning grittiness and moral purpose. I’d guess she’s a pivot on which the history of children’s fantasy tilts – most of today’s writers in this genre would acknowledge her importance, and the joy she gave them in their childhood reading. I only ever met her once – we shared a platform years ago at the Cheltenham Festival – and she was everything a (still grubby) younger writer could have hoped for – generous, encouraging, kind, formidable. She’ll be much missed, but she’s not exactly gone: her influence is everywhere.