________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000

cover The Secret Life of Fairies.

Penelope Larkspur. Illustrated by Leslie Elizabeth Watts.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $14.95, $16.95 with pendant.
ISBN 1-55074-547-6, ISBN 1-55074-555-7 with pendant.

Subject Heading:
Fairies-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4


Next time you are in the woods on a moonlit night, be on the lookout for fairies. You may hear them before you see them. The thrum of a harp of the lilting melody of a flute will tell you they are nearby.

Approach quietly, for fairies do not like to be watched. If you are lucky, you may glimpse a troop of fairies dancing.

image The Secret Life of Fairies is a handy reference for authors who need to know everything there is to know about these elusive magical creatures. Penelope Larkspur has created an interesting and even believable collection of "facts" about fairies that most humans never even think about, and she has done it in a delicate manner, using poetry, descriptive prose and gentle humor.

Larkspur has obviously read a lot of fairy tales. Written in language that is clear, age appropriate but never condescending, Larkspur provides the reader with encyclopedic information about fairy powers, homes, bedrooms, fashions, and food. She advises the reader about how to watch fairies and how to befriend them (should you be so lucky as to find one). The book includes a recipe for fairy cakes in human proportions. There is an index at the beginning of the book, and the text is spread out over the pages of the large format binding. A fairy tale (what else?) is at the end of the book, and, in a modern twist of the tale, it is the stepfather who is the mean character. Good triumphs and everyone lives happily ever after, of course. For those whose fairy sightings are too numerous to remember, there is a record sheet to conclude the book where details can be kept.

The text is accompanied by beautifully soft illustrations by Leslie Elizabeth Watts. Watts' fairies are impish and cute, clad in petals, leaves and spider webs, or mouse-skin shoes to keep out the dew. They drink from acorns and eat their favorite foods of butter, milk, cream and cheese from leaf plates. Soft greens, browns and pastels capture their natural surroundings in the woods. Their houses are in tree trunks, and their furnishings are items found or secreted away from humans. Watts applies practicality to her imagination: pencil stubs make bedposts, empty spools become tables.

The Secret Life of Fairies can offer children the opportunity to legitimize their imaginative play and writing. Two editions of this book have been published in hard cover. One edition contains a fairy necklace, also designed by Leslie Elizabeth Watts, found within the front cover. In an age of video games and MTV, it's sometimes a concern that children will lose their powers of imagination. That won't happen if parents and teachers make their minds work by exposing them to good books. The Secret Life of Fairies would make an excellent gift for children, and could be well used by a teacher or librarian teaching a fairy tale unit.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364