A Fairy Friend – Sue Fliess and Claire Keane, Henry Holt and Company, 2016
If you love someone a lot, you have to let her leave. If that someone is a fairy, you have a little bit more flexibility, because she may fly back to you. This sweet and fanciful book explains how the process of giving fairies their freedom works.
Author Sue Fliess and Illustrator Claire Keane have created perfectly matched text and pictures in this description of a girl’s fascination with fairies and their miniature world. They may be related to Tinkerbell, but somewhat distantly. There is even a bit of the commercial White Rock Girl, but modestly dressed. They are active and energetic, as is the little girl who loves them. She begins her fairy-finding excursion pairing a wispy dress with hiking boots and a backpack; these are the type of inventive and funny details that set Keane’s fairies apart from the typical little winged creatures. In Fliess’ rhymes, they are always on the move, as they “Skip through flowers,/Zip through trees,/Hum and buzz among the bees.” Quoting individual lines does not do the text justice because, cumulatively, they add up to convincing picture of a mutually positive friendship. The girl builds them houses of twigs and flowers, cooks flower-petal stew, and even flies with them over a dizzying image of houses lit up at night.
If you are not yourself fairy-obsessed, or if you do not know any children who are, this book might give you a glimpse into an unknown world. If you have children who like to construct fairy homes complete with furniture, Keane’s two page spread of a particularly appealing one will fill you with recognition. “Mossy rooftop, pebble path,/Mushroom cap to take her bath,” are only some of the features of this ideal dwelling. One fairy bounces off a thistle bed while another slides down an English cottage roof. The most interesting aspect of this scene is the large and heavy hammer lying next to the structure, and the little girl in the background hanging nutshell swings to a tree. It’s clear that fairy houses don’t build themselves. They are the result of dedication and skill.
Finally, readers have to learn that fairies are meant to be free and that trapping them in habitats, no matter how comfortable, will not work. They fly away, each carrying a small suitcase. Finally, however, if you are “thoughtful, kind, and true,” you may expect your fairy to return. I know what you are thinking; if only life were like that! In defense of realism in books about fairies, as if that were necessary, it is not clear if they are back for good, or if they will come and go like unanticipated gifts. A Fairy Friend beautifully validates this hope for children who are fans of fairies, as well as for adults attached to impermanent things.