The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure
This is the true story of two young English girls who fooled everyone with the photographs they took. Elsie and Frances were cousins who hadn’t met until Frances moved to England from South Africa. When Frances, age 9, visited the beck behind their small house, she saw tiny little brown men in green clothes walking about. But the grownups teased her about seeing fairies, and there was one thing that Elsie at age 15 wouldn’t tolerate and that was teasing. So the girls set out to take a photograph of fairies that would stop the teasing entirely. It was all meant to be a little joke, but quickly got out of hand as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved along with international publicity. It wasn’t until much later that the ruse was finally admitted to. But in the end, there is still one magical photograph that wasn’t staged by the girls, and you can decide if there are really fairies in it.
This well-researched nonfiction book for children has the appeal of fairies and also the intriguing story of two young people who lied and got away with it for a very long time. Losure manages to recreate the world that the children were growing up in, but not dwell on overly long descriptions. It is a brief book, one that looks closely at the truth behind the photographs but also one that keeps one small part open to the wonder of fairies too.
The girls could have been depicted in a quite different way than Losure handles them here. They did deceive people and created more images that spread more lies. But Losure does not show them as calculating at all, rather they are caught in the life that their small prank takes on, unable to admit the truth and unable to stop the insatiable curiosity about the images. There is an exceptional dignity to the way their story is told here, one that pays homage to both the lie and to the belief.
A very readable nonfiction work that will be enjoyed by children reading the popular fairy series out right now and may lead those fiction readers to find more nonfiction to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from library copy.