If that fun book title isn’t enough to entice you, then may I present to you: FAIRIES. Honest to goodness fairies. Younger, convinced-fairies-were-living-in-the-garden me would have devoured this story & I’m happy to report older, still-loves-magical-things me adored Fleur’s story, too.
Grade four student, Gemma Hart, already has a lot to contend with. Her parents are talking about moving away from the lovely country town of Nullaboo, and she’s stuck with the topic of march flies for her school science project when she really wanted butterflies. But her life gets even more complicated when she discovers a fairy called Janomi in her bug catcher who desperately needs Gemma’s help to save her fairy colony from not one, but two evil forces.
I love that this book allows you to embrace the wonderment of magic in your own world.
As I mentioned above, when I was a kid I was certain that fairies lived in people’s backyards. I used to craft cardboard furniture for them and leave them bits of my lunch to eat. Once I even left my Barbie car under a tree in case they were sick of flying & wanted to try a different mode of transport. The imagination and belief you have when you’re younger is powerful, and Fleur has done a beautiful job of capturing that essence in the story. I also just really love the fairy lore that’s presented, like this section where Janomi’s explaining who she is to Gemma:
“I’m a fairy. Well, I will be when I grow up. We’re born as Glints, then we grow into Twinkles, then just before we get our wings and magic we are Sparkles. I’m a Sparkle – I’ll get my wings and magic any day now.” (pg. 13)
The friendship formed between Gemma and Janomi is very sweet, and it’s great that both of their stories allow the audience to see how brave and strong-willed they are. Both characters are faced with a lot of dilemmas, like standing up to scary authority figures or unwillingly becoming the centre of attention (just to name a few). But while Gemma and Janomi experience moments of self-doubt and worry, they always find the courage and fortitude to push through. Their stories run parallel to each other and I love that they bring out the best in one another and the people/fairies around them.
This is also evident in the way that the community rallies together to help one another. Nullaboo sounds like an awesome place to live. There’s wide open spaces, fresh air, animals & creatures galore (watch out for ‘Tough Goose’ in attack mode at Gemma’s house!) and it’s home to a town full of people who treat their neighbours like family. That definitely comes in handy when Gemma and Janomi run into trouble with the Department of Unexpected Discovery (or ‘DUD’ for short, heh), and need all the help they can get. There’s a really lovely mention of Bunnaloo, the community Fleur based her story on, written in her author’s note at the end:
“The elements of this story that are not exaggerated are the generosity, decency and compassion of the people of Bunnaloo and the essence that unites the school and broader community. On the farm we were rescued countless times by our neighbours who either turned up at exactly the right moment or were only a phone call away. We would not have survived on the farm without them.”
I also want to give a big high five to illustrator, Briony Stewart, who has done such a beautiful job. Not only is the book cover amazing, but the illustrations throughout are so cute and bring the story to life even more. My favourite one (on pg. 83) is of Janomi swirling around fairy dust in her hands – I wish I could do that too!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be out in the garden…