In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fairy folk

Dear Annie,

Huuuge thank you to Clara.  Her post on  learning to read was so smart and clear.  I really appreciate her distinguishing among different early reader series.  I've resisted bringing in the Brand New Readers which she talked about, simply because I sometimes feel overwhelmed by every publisher having a differently-leveled early reader series.  But now I'll start carrying them in the store because Clara has explained to me what they do well.  I'm going to repeat her summing-up advice, because it's so important to raising a reader:
... if you had insisted I write a one sentence piece of advice to parents on teaching their children to read, it would be this: "Read together, every day." For a child who associates reading with love will not find it difficult to love to read.
Moving back to chapter books, a lovely new one went on sale this week.  
The Fairy Ring
, by Mary Losure is a magical piece of non-fiction.  It tells the story of two Yorkshire cousins during World War I who took pictures of drawings of fairies and passed them off as photos of the real thing.  One of the girls claimed that she actually saw fairy folk, apart from the faked pictures.  The book says that the girls staged the pictures in response to adults belittling them when they talked about fairies.  The mother of one of the girls gave the photos to an adult member of the Theosophists, who believed in fairies, and before long Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a book using the photos as proof of the existence of fairy folk.  It's the story of a lie tumbling out of control.  The girls stood by their story for decades, in the face of escalating adult interest and skeptical reporters.  The mother who released the photos said she believed they were true because she couldn't imagine her daughter lying to her.  The father, who publicly disparaged his daughter's intelligence, believed the pictures were a hoax, but couldn't prove it.

The book has many levels.  It's the story of a hoax.  Of family dynamics gone wrong. Of a close friendship.  Of a social movement that wanted to find magic in the world.  And of educated upper-class men believing the pictures were true because they thought young working-class Yorkshire girls were incapable of a sophisticated hoax.  It's a lovely read.



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