Friday, September 16, 2011

The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz

First published by Candlewick Press in 2010

There is something very satisfying about holding such high expectations for a book, for quite a long time, and then having them met. The Night Fairy was like that for me. When I first saw it in the bookstore last year, it looked like a classic, it looked like it would be good and something I would enjoy reading. I am not sure exactly how a book ‘looks’ like a classic, but this one did. And I say now that it reads like a classic, without really knowing why – it’s just a feeling you get, I suppose. I really enjoyed The Night Fairy and think it does everything right.

Young fairy Flora is a night fairy, out enjoying the night and her beautiful wings when a bat comes along and accidentally and regretfully bites them off. Flora must then learn to live and adapt to life without wings, discover what she is capable of, and find out that the world can be very big, unfair, and dangerous, and she must do whatever it takes to survive.

The writing in The Night Fairy is simple, but I say deceptively, because there is a lot on stuff going on behind the gentle, lush descriptions and easy language. The writing flows, and it flows wonderfully. We drift towards each part of the garden and each new adventure/discovery and the writing is funny when it needs to be, thrilling when it needs to be, and tender when the moment requires it. There is never a distinctive shift between these changes, it just is, and for me this is the best kind of writing.

And how wonderful it is to see a fictional fairy with so much personality – I think she is a wonderful heroine for young girls. I love that she is feisty and stubborn and even sometimes quite boorish, but still has such a capacity to learn and admit when she may be wrong, without having her morals and beliefs compromised. She is resourceful and smart and determined, but still has compassion and the ability to look beyond her initial misgivings. This was especially prominent in the way she learned to overcome and understand the source of her greatest fear. I also liked how she subtly learned that there is more to her relationships with other creatures  than just what they can do for her in return – Schlitz lets it play out quite winningly and naturally but leave all schmaltziness at the door.

The backyard setting is great, and the way we are introduced to it from the perspective of a fairy not even the size of two acorns. I love when this technique works well – I think it is also a great and imaginative way of teaching kids to think outside the square.

The Night Fairy was a winner for me, and one I would reccommend for every school library. Smart, charming heroine, beautifully simple writing, rich imagination and a story that can teach us things in the best kind of way. 

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