Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, August 26, 2016

On Shimmering Wings

It is said seven or was it twelve were invited to celebrate the birth of a child; an eighth or perhaps a thirteenth was overlooked.  Good things were gifted to this princess except for one, an evil curse not to be undone.  It is also said there was another girl, in another story, an orphan except for a harsh stepmother and two nasty stepsisters.  In the moment of her greatest sadness a special one appeared to offer her riches beyond her dreams.

There might be a reason these stories dating back hundreds of years, though called fairy tales, rarely have these creatures in them.  Possibly the explanation is fairies are everywhere.  A Fairy Friend (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, May 10, 2016) written by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Claire Keane is a vision of possibility.

There are fairies in the sky.
All around you, fairies fly,
Flit and flutter, tumble, twirl,
When the wind blows, fairies swirl...

Fairies are indeed about in the fields and forests.  If gazing out a window in the evening they can be seen racing past, astride their faithful steeds...dragonflies.  Maybe the cool breath of air we feel brush our cheek in our dreams is the touch of a winged visitor.

You can search those fields and forests for one of these tiny friends but the best thing to do is welcome them and send them an invitation.  Build them a wee cottage out of bits and pieces you find in those areas they enjoy.  Tiny twigs, feathery ferns, fragrant flowers and soft green moss are beautiful materials.

You must be sure to include a proper bed and bath by thinking small thoughts and finding small things.  What would you use for a bath or to soften a fairy's bed?  Pour love and petals into a pot to cook a favorite food.  Carry it carefully, setting it softly down and in view.

You wait, watch and approach in silence.  Your reward will be a dream comes true; hands full of happiness, lessons lifting you to new heights, safety and cozy comfort.  As with all things loved, they need to be free.  But remember...the joy in a return is worth the time apart.

There is a lively, light happiness in the words selected by Sue Fliess  Her use of rhyme and alliteration has woven belief into the fabric of this story.  Each two line phrase hums a musical cadence of magic.  Here are two more sample passages.

Wings of fairies shimmer, spark,
Twinkle, glimmer in the dark.
Shiny spots or wisps of light
Could be fairies in your sight.

As soon as you touch the heavy dust jacket you start to marvel at the eloquence of this book.  On the front and back of the dust jacket the majority of the images are embossed.  The title text and the main illustration on the back are done in foil.  Shiny spot varnish is used on the center picture on the front.  Without even opening this title it is a magnet for those wanting to read about fairies.  (The book case matches the jacket without the varnish, embossing and foil.)

On the opening and closing endpapers in soft, natural colors four smiling fairies are enjoying themselves among leaves, branches and flowers.  There might be some fairy dust floating about them too.  Across the dedication and verso page a fairy swings leaving tiny petals in her wake.  On the title page the young girl is seated in a tire swing as her canine companion watches.

The pictures, rendered in watercolor and Photoshop by Claire Keane, create dream-like visions, delicate and flowing.  Some spread across two pages, others are on single pages and several single pages hold groups of three or two images.  All the illustrations are loosely framed in soft, brush strokes.  The expressions on the girl, her dog and the fairies are full of pure merriment.  There are subtle hints of humor when the dog seeks and sees the fairies before the girl does.

One of my favorite illustrations is the first one in the story spanning two pages.  Our perspective is that of the fairies playing among the tree tops.  Beneath the fairies the girl, wearing a backpack and carrying a net, is strolling in search of fairies.  Her dog, walking behind her, looks up at the tree tops spying the playful beings.  On the right-hand side in the upper corner we can see the girl's home.

Anyone who reads A Fairy Friend written by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Claire Keane will be searching outside for tiny twigs, feathery ferns, fragrant flowers and soft green moss as soon as they finished the final word.  Eventually you may find a fairy residing in your newly built home or a friend of a fairy from the nearby fields or forests.  One copy in your classrooms and libraries will not be enough.  This little treasure will rarely be on the bookshelves.

To learn more about Sue Fliess and Claire Keane and their other work please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  On Claire Keane's website you can view interior images from this title.  She also maintains Tumblr pages.  Sue Fliess wrote a guest post about this title for Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read. There is a different interior image to be seen at the publisher's website.

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