I have always loved this story – a story within a story, really.  It speaks so much of the times and the psychology of an era.  I was a teenager, though, before I learned about the Cottingley Fairies.  I do wish I’d had a book like this to read when I was young.

The book gives an overview of how Elsie and Frances managed to find themselves involved in a national obsession.  Losure sketches their individual personalities, setting the stage for an incredible story.  Two young girls, restless and creative — and tired of being ignored — snapped photographs of themselves with dainty creatures of the woods near their home.  The girls insisted they communicated with these fairies.  And in a time when photography was a new technology, it was assumed that a photo equaled reality.  When the pictures made it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Strand Magazine, their quiet country existence became chaotic.  And, as is human nature, numerous people found in it precisely what they were looking for.

Sir Arthur wrote a book about Elsie and Frances’s pictures.  He called it “The Coming of the Fairies.”

Science, Sir Arthur now believed, was like a harsh light that left the world hard and bare, ‘like a landscape in the moon’.  And surely, there was more to life than that!  Just knowing fairies were out there, even if you never got to see one, added charm and romance to the world.

Sir Arthur didn’t say this in his book, but a part of him had longed for fairies ever since he was a boy. … In the asylum, Sir Arthur’s father drew pictures of tiny people holding leaves as big as umbrellas or lurking in flowerpots or riding on the back of birds.

Sir Arthur didn’t mention any of that in “The Coming of the Fairies.”  But if fairies were REAL, Sir Arthur’s father wasn’t crazy after all.                                    ~  Pages 141-3

Elsie and Frances down the beck

Losure tells the tale in a plain way, but it is not condescending.  She notes that the girls behaved badly for not being honest, but they are not vilified.  She highlights the narrow window between innocence and experience, between belief and reality.  Perhaps most importantly, she notes the importance of being true to yourself, and not needed validation from anyone else.  

Thank you to Candlewick Press for the review copy.

suggested retail price (U.S./CAN): $16.99 / $19.00
isbn-10/isbn-13: 0763656704 / 9780763656706
on sale date: 03/2012
type/format: Nonfiction / Hard Cover
age range: 10 yrs and up
# of pages/size: 192 / 5 1/2 x 7 1/4″
grade range: Grade 5 and up

I invited a young lady, by the name of Sage, to also read and review this book.  She is 14 and I welcomed her views on The Fairy Ring.  Here are her thoughts.  

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World is written by Mary Losure. It was published March 27, 2012 by Candlewick Press. The age level for this book is 10 year old and up, so says the book.  I think that the book publishing company is wrong in this aspect. A 10 year old living in today’s world would have trouble reading this book because of the use of outdated words and the older camera used in the turn of the century is so different than the camera than we know today that some children might not grasp the concept. Instead I think that this is a wonderful read-aloud book for a child of any age or an independent book for anyone over the age of 13. In either case, it is probably a good idea to keep a dictionary near by. All in all, this book is a very quick read and quite lovely at that.

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the Worldis a true story about a 9 year-old girl named Frances who sees little fairies near the small brook in her aunt and uncle’s backyard. After the start of World War I, Frances and her mother move in with her Aunt Polly, Uncle Arthur and her cousin, Elise in a little town by the name of Cottingley in Yorkshire, England while her father is fighting in France. When Frances is made fun of for believing in fairies, Elsie says she saw the fairies too. To prove that fairies exist, Elsie makes paper pixies and borrows her father’s camera to take pictures of the fairies with her and with Frances.  These pictures are soon forgotten and stashed in a drawer, until Polly visits a lecture about nature spirits presented by an organization of people by the name of Theosophists. Elsie’s mother tells the lecturer about the photographs her daughter and her niece had taken of fairies.  Mr. Gardener soon writes a letter to Mrs. Wright telling her how astounding the pictures were and if Elsie would take some more. He sends Elsie six-dozen plates to take pictures with. (At this time, cameras were very different than cameras today. Instead of film, glass plates were used. Each glass plate had to be inserted in a dark room. ) The fairy pictures were shown in lectures given by the Theosophical Society in London. A writer for the Strand was doing research for an article about first-hand accounts of fairy sightings. This writer was none another than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes. Soon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mr. Gardener team up to uncover the truth on the fairy pictures; to find a scam. This leads to the harassment of both girls to take more pictures. One day, they take three more.  Time passes, and Elsie and Frances are no longer able to see the fairies. Neither of them took another fairy picture.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Losure uses wondrous imagery to describe the beck in Elsie’s backyard. The description of the ‘little men’ that Frances sees is just wonderful. It makes me want to visit a little waterfall or a glen.

You can buy this book on Amazon for as low as  $6.97 (That price includes shipping. Regular price: $16.99.)

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