I picked up The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz, as a 6th birthday gift for one of Kate's friends. With its gorgeous jacket, beautiful thick pages, and lovely colour illustrations by Angela Barrett, The Night Fairy feels as if it's brimming with magic.
There's no shortage of books about fairies, and I've read my share of them with Kate (I'm looking at you, Rainbow Magic Fairies). Most often, fairies in children's books are sweet and cheerful, and live in worlds full of glitter and sunshine.
Flora the Night Fairy, however, is not a typical fairy. She is feisty, ill-mannered, and bossy. There's a reason for this: she lost her wings after an encounter with a bat. Unable to fly, she is stranded in a garden and forced to fend for herself in a world of predators and danger.
In the book's notes, Schlitz explains her inspiration for writing The Night Fairy: "[Little girls] adore the prettiness of fairies...but they are also nature lovers and lovers of adventure...I couldn't help thinking that these little girls who love fairies deserve something lively."
Fairy-lovers will delight in the details of Flory's miniature world. She takes refuge in a birdhouse, and turns it into a cozy home. She weaves blades of grass into baskets, ties cobwebs into ladders, and knots flower petals into gowns.
She's also tough: a thorn becomes a dagger and a way of protecting herself from danger. "Fairies are magical creatures, but they can be hurt—even killed—when they are young and their magic is not strong," the book tells us. From the bat that accidentally bites off Flory's wings, to the raccoon that eats goldfish and the spider that catches prey in his web, Flory "recalled the thing that no animal and no fairy should ever forget: the world is full of predators." It's all part of nature and the cycle of life, and Flory realizes "every creature in the garden had to eat. That was the law."
We find out that had Flory lived with other fairies, she might have sang and danced, and been taught manners. Instead, her struggle for survival has made her self-centred. Eventually, she develops relationships with the creatures around her and realizes she can't force them to obey her. When she risks her life to save a hummingbird and her babies, she finally learns to consider others.
The Night Fairy is a lovely, timeless book. It combines the wonder of a fairy-tale world with a strong heroine and a good dose of adventure.
Two kids, two cats, and a house full of books. We share our favourite picks for young readers.