Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small (InfoSoup)
Bloom was a fairy who dealt in dirt and plants. She could spin sand into glass and turn small amounts of water into rivers. She lived in a glass kingdom and as the years passed, the kingdom’s inhabitants only saw the mess that Bloom left behind with her mud and not the way that she helped. Bloom finally left and went to live in the forest. More years passed and the glass kingdom started to fall into disrepair. The king remembered the powerful fairy and went to seek her help, because such a creature could only be asked by a monarch. But when Bloom offered the king to save his kingdom with mud, the king stormed off. The queen tried too with similar effect. Finally, they decided that they must send someone ordinary to ask Bloom for help and so Genevieve was selected. It will take a girl working with a fairy to save the kingdom, but even more it will take getting dirty along the way.
Cronin has created a story that is surprising and delightful. This is a fairy tale where girls save the day rather than being rescued by princes. It reads like a traditional fairy tale but with a feminist viewpoint that is not overplayed at all. There is also a beautiful attitude about getting your hands dirty and the fact that hard work is the way to solve problems along with working together.
Small’s illustrations are playful with delicate lines that swoop on the page. They are alive with action, particularly when Bloom is on the page. Small captures the delight of mud and getting dirty, the connection of the two girls, and the efforts that it takes to rebuild a kingdom even with magic. I must also mention the text design, which makes the book a joy to read aloud, creating real feeling around words like MUD and DIRT.
A feminist and intelligent fairy tale just right for modern children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull (InfoSoup)
When Clare and her father move back to Ireland and the house that Clare was born in, Clare discovers memories of her dead mother that she had forgotten. Clare has always believed in the Strange, fairies and magic, makings that only she seems to notice in real life. Returned to her family home, Clare discovers that the Strange and fairies are real and have been in her life for some time. She remembers the powers of the yew tree that forms part of the house and serves as a gate to Timeless, the world of the fairies. She meets Finn again, a boy she has known since she was an infant. Now the two of them must figure out how to stop a threat to both the human world and Timeless, a threat that is coming for Clare’s family, her tree, and Finn personally.
Catmull’s writing is rich and beautiful. She creates a different world of fairy on the page, a world where yes there is danger and iciness, but there is also an important connection between humans and fae, one that if lost will change both worlds in a permanent and devastating way. Catmull’s writing unfolds at its own pace, sometimes languorous and almost dreamlike and other times rampaging and racing. It’s a book that dances and moves, circles and threatens, where things are not what they seem.
Catmull uses imagery and poetry to add even more richness to the book. Clare writes, reluctantly at first, and then more openly. Her poetry is fresh and lovely, offering a glimpse into a world that Clare herself has mostly forgotten. The book encourages each person to make things as they will, showing the importance of creativity to our lives and to the way we connect to our world.
An unusual and exceptionally gorgeous look at fairies and their world, this book is just right for teens who don’t mind a book that meanders a bit like a night in Timeless. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell (InfoSoup)
When a group of dwarfs travels through their tunnels in the mountain to another land, they discover that a sleeping curse is spreading across the world and will soon threaten the kingdom they live in. It all originated with one castle, an angry fairy and a young princess. The dwarfs return through the mountain and let their queen know of the danger. Though it is about to be her wedding day, she goes with them. They discover a land falling fast asleep and that the sleepers will follow them slowly. The castle has a hedge of thorns around it that seems impenetrable. Inside the castle is an old woman who is the only one left awake. She knows that no one can pass the thorns and considers killing the beautiful girl asleep on the bed to lift the curse, but she doesn’t. It is the queen alone who can figure out how to pass the thorns and who will recognize the evil for what it actually is.
Gaiman takes the Grimm story of Sleeping Beauty and makes it lush and incredibly beautiful. His prose is gorgeous, lingering on small things and building a world that is filled with a deadly magic. The queen herself is a great character, much more interested in being a heroine than a queen and having adventures rather than a gorgeous wedding dress. Gaiman does not cringe away from a woman saving another woman, and then he does an amazing twist to the story. One that readers will be shocked by and one that allows it all to click into place, hauntingly.
Riddell’s illustrations are done in pen and ink, made shimmering by touches of gold throughout. Yet it is truly his art which shines here, the details of people asleep as spider’s weave webs across their faces, the dark beauty of the queen and the blonde beauty of the sleeping girl. There is also a beauty to the old woman that is unique and special and to the dwarfs too with their roughened features. The setting too is brought clearly to life as they traverse it.
A glorious new feminist version of Sleeping Beauty that twists and turns before a very satisfying ending. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
Marni lives with her Gramps on the edge of the woods where they grow flowers that the wealthy lords and ladies from the castle come to buy. The woods is not just a normal woods, it is filled with small creatures and a lady who has sung and knitted with Marni since she was a child. Marni doesn’t speak with the creatures of the forest anymore, but she had spent many hours as a child with them. Marni is not just any peasant girl, she is the daughter of the sister of the king, and her Gramps was once king himself. The current king, her uncle, killed her mother and now may be turning his attentions to Marni. After all she is not just human, she is half dragon, and her dragon father is expanding his woods to find her.
A large part of the delight of this book is uncovering secrets along the way. Hahn plays with this in her many-layered story, slowly revealing things that the reader may have guessed at. Startling readers with revelations at other times, ones that make perfect sense and click into the story with a neat precision. Told in a series of parts, the book takes place in three distinct locales. There is the hut that Marni lives in with Gramps and their odd but also stable life together. There is the king’s court where Marni is not only out of place but also targeted and unsafe. Finally, there is the world of the dragon, the lure of the woods and its dangerous beauty.
At the heart of all of this is Marni, also called Tulip, who finds herself a princess raised as a pauper. She is separate from the royal court but not entirely, still connected through her flowers and through her mother and the violent act that killed her. She is a girl who is strong enough to deny the fairies in the woods what they want, smart enough to survive at court without understanding the politics, and determined enough to find her father when she needs to. She is one of those heroines who is vulnerable and real but also startling and incredible.
Complex and rich, this debut novel gives us a new voice in high fantasy for teens. One who is definitely worth exploring and reading. Get this into the hands of fans of Seraphina. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HMH Books for Young Readers.
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.
Small Persons with Wings by Ellen Booream
Mellie grew up with a fairy living in her bedroom. He was her best friend for years. But when she told her kindergarten class about him, he disappeared before she could prove he existed. Now at age 13, she is still called “Fairy Fat” by her classmates. Even her parents who had agreed that the fairy existed and treated him as real, declare in front of the school counselor that it is all Mellie’s imagination. So Mellie decides to turn off her imagination and become practical. When her parents inherit a decrepit inn in another town, it is Mellie’s chance to leave her nickname and the fairy behind for good. But that’s before Mellie discovers that the inn is inhabited by lots and lots of fairies.
Booream’s writing is so very readable, inviting readers into a world where fairies are real and plenty of trouble. The dialogue in the book works well, reading very naturally. The setting of the old inn is nicely rendered, giving readers just enough detail to visualize the inn clearly, but not too much to get bogged down.
Booream excels at creating interesting characters. Mellie is a wonderful young protagonist who displays an intriguing combination of prickliness, self-doubt and courage. She is a girl who has been bullied for years, but has not been broken by it. I also appreciate that Mellie is a heavier young lady who has heavier parents who love her and don’t mind her weight. It is the other children who have issues with it.
The cover with its zinging blue, sparkly letters is very appealing. I do wish that there was some even small hint off Mellie being a larger teen. Plus I am getting very tired of the feet on covers as a way to not show problematic protagonists in great detail.
A very friendly and fun fairy fantasy, this book will be popular with fans of the Rainbow Fairy books who are aging out of that series. Appropriate for ages 10-14.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
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April and Esme Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham
April is a seven-year-old tooth fairy about to head out on her first tooth collection. But first she has to convince her parents that she is old enough to go out with just her little sister for company. Soon the two of them are headed out into the starry night with a coin in their sack that will be exchanged for the tooth. Their mother cautioned that that the boy must never see them, that’s the most important thing. After diving for the tooth in a glass of water, April and Esme are stunned to see the boy wake up and look right at them. But all is not lost, as with quick thinking the two of them save the day. They then return home again tired but very proud of their success.
Graham has such a great touch with stories. He marries modern touches with classic tropes. Here the father of the tooth fairy family has a pony tail along with his wings. His wife sports a tattoo on her arm that is visible when she’s reading in the bath. At the same time, the family lives in a tiny home near a hollow trunk of a tree, surrounded by thistle and mushrooms. But turn your head and you will see the trucks on the M42. Graham also weaves humor into the story, both through the juxtaposition of modern and classic, but also in small moments in the book. One of my favorites is when Esme pauses to consider taking a grandmother’s false teeth too.
A story sure to resonate with modern children that is gentle, sweet and toothsome. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rise of the Darklings (The Invisible Order Book #1) by Paul Crilley
At twelve years old, Emily Snow has been looking after her younger brother since her parents disappeared. She tries to earn enough money to feed them both by selling watercress on the streets of Victorian London. One cold morning on her way to the watercress vendor, Emily encounters several strange small people having a battle. After the battle, two men approach her to ask her what she witnessed. Emily refuses to tell them, but that is not the last she will hear from them or from the piskies she saw battling. In fact, Emily has just entered the confusing and amazing world of the sidhe where both sides want her to help them and no one is telling the truth. Joined by Jack, a thief from the streets, Emily tries to figure out who she can trust and what her role is in the future of both humans and fey.
This book is a pleasure to read. Crilley has nicely balanced the world of the fey with the real world of London. Filled with details about the city, this book’s setting is well drawn and delightfully mixed with the magic and wonder of the sidhe world. Crilley also offers a feisty heroine who will delight young readers not only with her intelligence but her own guile as she deals with the faeries and The Invisible Order of humans too. The book reads effortlessly, beginning quickly with the pages whipping by as the adventure heats up. Children looking for a good read should look no further. Teachers as well should look to this as a great classroom read with enough action to keep even the most doubtful listener rapt.
A delight of a novel, this is one of the top faery books I have read for younger readers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Egmont.
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett
Newbery winner Schlitz returns with a celebration of fairies that will have any child entranced. Flory, a night fairy, was only the size of an acorn when she was out flying and was crunched on by a bat who mistook her for a luna moth. After her wings were crushed, she fell down into a cherry tree in a giant’s garden. There she found a birdhouse just the right size for a fairy’s home. Because she couldn’t move around easily on her own without wings, Flory befriended a very hungry squirrel who let her ride him in exchange for food. But Flory wanted a grander animal to ride and when she saw the hummingbirds she knew just what she wanted. But the hummingbirds were aloof and distant, too busy to talk with her about her needs. It wasn’t until one bird was trapped in a spider web in the garden that Flory could bargain with her. That bargain would take her on an even greater adventure that teaches Flory what friendship and being a fairy is really about.
Schlitz’s writing is laced with magic. This deceptively slim volume holds so much story that it could have been much longer. Instead, Schlitz has written a tightly woven story gilded with wonderful language. The language invites readers deeply into the story, lets them know that something special has been written here, and then sails them off on adventure.
I greatly appreciate that Flory is a fairy with plenty of chutzpah and guts. She is prickly, brave and wonderfully independent. At the same time, she dresses in flower petals, is a tiny size, and is undeniably feminine. Bravo for a heroine who wields a dagger while dressed in petals!
Highly recommended, this book should be handed to any youngster who enjoys a good fairy tale. This book has plenty of action and adventure married with magic and beauty. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from Advanced Reader Copy received from Candlewick Press.
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