June 6, 2007

The Fairy Chronicles Book Review

I received a free copy of The Fairy Chronicles: Marigold and the Feather of Hope,the Journey Begins by J.H. Sweet from Sourcebooks Inc. to review.

I was excited to read and review this book. As many know Rhiannon loves fairies and all things fairy related. So to find another fairy series geared towards her age group was interesting to me. I liked the concept of young girls turning into fairies by transforming into things that looked like ordinary objects such as a flowers, insects,and bugs. So with great anticipation I began my reading of the book.

Overall my review is positive. I recommend them to young girls who love fairies or want to take a journey into fairy land. They are short and simply written and, while not challenging to an advanced reader in the target age group, are very accessible to all levels. As the first of a series though I anticipate they will develop more depth over time as the writer settles into the storyline and world. They would be very good reads for those who also love the Disney Fairies series and Gail Carson Levine's Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg. As a parent you can feel comfortable with the underlying morals and messages promoted in this book.

Rhiannon will continue to read the series and love it. I will post her reviews here as well, as sometimes the review of a child is more effective at pinpointing what is enjoyable to a child. It is a series that I hope to see continue and growth in depth as the writer gains more experience with the characters and the plots develop with more detail and depth.

The book opens with simple characters to which a young girl can easily relate and will draw a her into the world. The first chapter ends by moving right into the heart of the story that this young lady is indeed a fairy. The story picks up here and the creativity of the author begins to shine. Beth's reaction to her aunt's revelation is believable and well written. The transition into the interesting world of fairies is seamless, well written and interesting to the reader.

Some real ingenuity on the part of the author comes through in these next few chapters as we enter the realm of fairies with a first time fairy as she learns it herself. The changing Fairy Handbook, the disguise of fairies as butterflies, flowers and bugs, the reasons for meeting under particular trees, brownies and a variety of other interesting elements draw the reader into the fairy land and make you want to keep reading. I can see that as a child my daughter will feel like she is entering this world herself, an excellent standard to judge any book by.

These middle chapters are well written and easily read. They are peppered with beautiful illustrations and some interesting variation in the text using italics and different fonts for the Fairy Handbook sections. These enhance the story and the overall experience of reading the book. In my opinion these are the best chapters of the book (Chapters 2-5) as they draw you into the world, introduce you to the variety of characters and provide the feel of an on going experience that Beth is just joining for the first time (just like you the reader).

The book moves into the climax of the book, Chapter 6, the rescue of the Feather of Hope. In my opinion this is the weakest part of the storyline. The plot is thin and not well developed. It moves quickly and without much tension or conflict. The fairies are seen working together and the teaching of teamwork is apparent but rushed and underdeveloped. It is nice to see the girls using different talents and abilities to resolve the conflict but there is little character or story development here and it is resolved just as quickly as it begins. For a book targeting 6-8 year olds this might be sufficient but to keep the interest of any older girls, including some of the mature readers in the 7-8 year old range the story needs more development. Alternately if there was no conflict but just the introduction to the fairy world this would have been better. Either to just introduce the world and concepts of fairies or to develop the book more to have more details and depth in the conflict and its resolution would have made it a stronger book. It almost feels as if the Feather of Hope chapters were thrown in as an afterthought rather than as a central part of the book.

The book concludes with the promise of more adventures to come between Beth/Marigold and her new found friends (each of which will have their own book coming out soon). The nut messages are clever and fun and again leave you with the magic and beauty and uniqueness of the fairy world that Sweet has begun creating in this book. The author leaves you with a taste of fairy land, and a desire to go back and experience the next adventures with these young fairies.

The subtle messages about the importance of hope, friendship, teamwork, being comfortable with our own uniqueness, not judging others by their appearances, and the inner strength within us are demonstrated throughout the book. The overt message stated at one point is:
"Life. In our search for meaning there are two important things to consider: how we treat other people, and what we teach to children."

These are messages I would guess will be themes throughout the series of books and good messages to share with young girls. Overall the author's messaging is positive. This is a fairy series that as a parent I feel comfortable with. It does not cross any lines or introduce children to real magic or new age concepts as many others in this genre can. It has nice moral messages, does not put children above adults, does not promote moral relativism, or encourage children to become older than they are. The book has clear mentor/student relationships, clear boundaries for young fairies, and restrictions on how much knowledge a person can and should have at any given age. These are morals and concepts that need to be promoted in children's literature at a time when so many are writing the exact opposite.

I applaud J.H. Sweet for writing with such underlying morals and outward behaviors in young girls. Encouraging them to be who they are but when the timing is right. The books do not rush girls but give them the freedom to explore and test what they can really accomplish in safe, guided and directed ways. As all children should experience growth and learning. I look forward to reading more from this series and more work that this author puts forward. Recommended.

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