The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett, 117 pp, RL 3


Laura Amy Schlitz is a wonder to me. With The Night Fairy, illustrated by the magnificent Angela Barrett, Schlitz's fifth published book (sixth, really, if you count her now out of print regency romance from 1992 titled, Gypsy at Almack's, which I would love to get my hands on...) she takes her writing in yet another direction. Schlitz won the Newbery Award in 2008 for her collection of poetic monologues, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, which begs to be read out loud or listened to on audio. Schlitz's young adult novel, A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama is one of my favorite works of historical fiction. Set in 1909, Schlitz's main character Maude Flynn can go toe-to-toe with Anne Shirley any day. Schlitz has also taken on the Brothers Grimm with her retelling of The Bearskinner and a biography of the man who searched for the city of Troy in The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy.

With The Night Fairy, Schlitz presents us with a fairy tale. In her author's note Schlitz, who has spent most of her life working as a librarian and a professional storyteller, explains that, aside from loving fairies herself as a child, she was also motivated by the girls who came into the library where she works seeking books about fairies. Schlitz says, "They adore the prettiness of fairies, the miniature-ness, but they are also nature lovers and lovers of adventure. They are in fact quite interesting little girls - the future wild women of America. I couldn't help thinking that these little girls who love fairies deserve something lively." I love the idea that a writer who has a rich knowledge of children's literature and a connection with and understanding of young readers would channel her creativity into a book for girls. That said, I think that there is enough feistiness in Flory, the night fairy of the title, and more than enough action and adventure in the story to keep boys listening to it as a read out loud.

When the story begins, Flory has just been born a little bit before midnight, the time at which her magic will be strongest. But, being a newborn fairy, she is still quite weak and unsure of the ways of the world and has yet to find her way. As Schlitz writes, "Young fairies have no one to take care of them, because fairies make bad parents. Babies bore them. A Fairy godmother is an excellent thing, but a fairy mother is a disaster." It is because of this that Flory meets with her peril, as Schlitz refers to it. One night, when she is not even three months old yet and no bigger than an acorn, Flory is floating along on a cool spring breeze, her green wings glittering in the moonlight, when a bat mistakes her for a moth and swoops down on her. Being so young, Flory does not know a spell to protect her self and, before the she can get away from the bat her wings have been all but bitten off. Only one sensing feather remains. Flory manages to make her way to the safety of a wren house, which she decides to turn into a home. She also decides to become a Day Fairy instead of a Night Fairy because she will be safer and better fed if she can manage during the day. She also comes to love the various birds who come to the garden, as well as the other animals. As Flory grows older, she learns that she can cast spells - the stinging spell being most often employed. Along with the multitude of birds, there is a giant who visits the garden Flory lives in, bringing seeds and even sugar water.

As Flory makes a life for herself in the garden she befriends, although not in a very friendly way, a squirrel whom she names Skuggle and enlists as a helper. Theirs is a sort of brains and braun friendship based almost solely on food. When Flory sees a hummingbird for the first time she knows she wants a ride on one, the absence of her wings still and aching loss for her. She finally gets her wish when she comes across a hummingbird caught in a spider's web. Flory tries to negotiate with her, offering to help if the bird will promise to be "my very own hummingbird and let me ride on your back." Much to Flory's surprise, the hummingbird refuses saying, "I won't belong to you. I belong to myself. And I have eggs." Flory tries to bargain for the safety of the eggs, but the bird will still have none of it. Even though she cries and stamps her foot when she realizes she is not going to get what she wants, Flory knows she will help the bird. Flory does her best to help, even using a blanket from her own home and a spell to keep the eggs warm. But as night approaches, the dangers of the garden and rescue seem to be too much for Flory's diminutive size and skill. That is when some surprising help comes to her aid.

The Night Fairy is a perfect bedtime read out loud. A chapter a night, combined with Angela Barrett's rich illustrations will make for very good dreams. However, this is also the kind of book that a curious reader will be thrilled to stumble upon and slip into her pocket for reading curled up in a quiet place.

Readers who liked this book will also enjoy:

David Ellwand's Fairie-ality books that are full of amazing photographs of fairie houses and fairies fashion.

The Lost Flower Children by Janet Lisle.

Laura Amy Sclitz's other great books, two of which I have reviewed here.

I could only find the one image of the beautiful, delicate artwork by Angela Barrett for The Night Fairy, so I included some of her other work so you could get a taste of her magical imagery. her art work reminds me a bit of Paul Zelinksky's illustrations for the Caldecott winning Rapunzel and the Caldecott honor winning Rumplstiltskin.



Playing by the book said...

I don't know the author or the illustrator, but I'll certainly be on the look out for both now! I particularly like the look of the book about excavating Troy.

Tanya said...

I know! The Troy book is the one of Schlitz's that I have not seen and I am so curious to read about it - he sounds like a bit of an egomaniacal-explorer-genius and I wonder how you fit that into a kid's book. So glad you will check out "Night Fairy." It is a special little book.

Kate Coombs said...

Oh, I just reviewed this! LOVED it. I'll add you to my links list. And thanks for the Angela Barrett art--her Snow White is my favorite, and have you seen that last shot in The Emperor's New Clothes? Heehee.

Tanya said...

Oooh! I'll have to look for that one! Barrett's artwork is amazing - beautiful and menacing at the same time.

The Spruiters said...

We loved this one, and I've recommended it to many friends with fairy-loving girls who are looking for an alternative to many of the mass produced fairy stories out there. Thanks for turning us on to this great book!

Tanya said...

You are SO welcome! I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to recommend a book that, as you put so well, is an alternative to the mass-produced fairy stories out there right now. Thanks for reading my blog!