Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

Mary Losure
Nonfiction
For ages 9 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Brilliance Audio, 2012   ISBN: 978-1455851829

Frances Griffith is nine years old when war breaks out in Europe. She and her family leave their home in South Africa and travel to England so that Mr. Griffith can do his duty and serve as a gunner in the British Army. They disembark at a port in England on a cold winter’s afternoon, and then board a train bound for the town of Cottingley, which is in Yorkshire. Frances and her mother will be living with Aunt Polly, Uncle Arthur, and Cousin Elsie while Mr. Griffith is away at war.

   Two weeks after arriving in England Mr. Griffith leaves his family. His wife gets a job in a nearby town working in a tailor’s shop and Frances goes to school. Her cousin Elsie, who is almost sixteen years old, no longer goes to school and she too works.

   In the spring Frances and Elsie explore the beck or little stream near the house. It is a pretty place and they spend many happy hours there playing with baby frogs. Then one day Frances sees little men dressed all in green going about their business near the beck. They don’t seem to be afraid of her and she is able to observe them at leisure. Frances also sees little fairies, but she prefers the little men.

   When the girls tell the grownups about the fairies, the grownups start teasing them. In fact they tease them so much that the girls get rather fed up. Elsie, who is a skilled artist, creates some very realistic pictures of fairies which she very carefully cuts out. Then the girls borrow Uncle Arthur’s camera and they take a picture of Frances next to Elsie’s dancing fairies. When the picture is developed the scene looks very realistic, so realistic that the adults stop teasing the girls. Later the girls create another picture and this one shows Frances next to a little gnome.

   In 1919 peace is declared and the war is over. Frances’ father comes home and their family moves to Scarborough, a town on the coast. Word gets out about the pictures and Mr. Gardner who is a Theosophist contacts Elsie’s mother. Theosophists organization believe in fairies, elves, hobgoblins and gnomes, which they call Nature Spirits. They are eager to find out more about the fairy sightings in Cottingley and to look at the photographs that Frances and Elsie took more closely. The girls start to attract a great deal of attention, attention that don’t want, and they know that they have to keep their subterfuge a secret because if the truth ever comes out they will be in big trouble.

   In this intriguing audio title the author tells the true story of two girls who created quite a stir when they fabricated photos showing fairies. It is interesting to find out why they created the photos in the first place and how little control they had once word got out about the pictures. Though the author does not downplay the fact that the girls lied, she does help her readers to see that the girls’ actions were not intended to be malicious. They were just having a little fun, playing a joke on their parents, and the girls never expected anyone take their joke seriously

   Wonderfully read by voice-over actor Nicola Barber, the narrative is spirited, engaging, and it helps readers get a sense of what Elsie and Frances were like.

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