The Cottingley Fairies by Ana Sender
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Between dull illustrations, poor explanations of the time period, and a lack of overall wonder Ana Sender's take on the famous Cottingley Fairies story is a real let down. Maybe this true story is just too complex to put into a children's novel; or perhaps the issue is that the story itself is a bit difficult to pull a moral from? Either way I was less than excited by the end.
I'm so disappointed that there is no real set-up or explanation of the time period in which the girls created their fake fairy photos. It mentions the war but doesn't really give the feel or mood of the real depression that had fallen over the world. I also feel like there is a an overall lack of mischievousness to the girls actions. Whereas the way I've read and heard tell this story in the past is that the girls were aware that tricking adults was a poor choice; but by the time the photos had been circulated so far they didn't know how to take back the lie.
Additionally the portrayal about Sir Author Conan Doyle is just sad. Sender makes him seem like some pathetic old man that was desperate to believe anything. Using Doyle's involvement and writings to discuss how much many of us (myself included) wish there was proof of real fairies would have been far more effective, relevant to the audience of children, and upheld Doyle's respect (which I believe he has more than deserved by legacy of his amazing literature he left us all with).
I'm going to assume you all know how the story ends and not consider it a spoiler given that it happened almost 100 years ago. There is a distinct opportunity here to leave behind the idea that fairies and magic could still exist. Sender sets us up for the impact of the final line fairly well. Yet the narrative that comes before makes it feel like our old lady is trying too hard, loosing her mind or just a little crazy when she indicates that the fifth photo is real. Perhaps that's my cynical adult mind thinking too hard but I didn't feel like there was a sparkle of a chance that fairies might be real at the end. This is really the moment where children might actually care about this story or become enamored with it. And while the words were mostly right, in context with the rest of the book, it just falls flat.
The biggest let down here really is really the illustrations though. There is nothing exciting or even colourful about them. I also would have liked to have had an explanation that photos were in black and white back then so that children can understand how the paper colour wasn't obvious. This book assumes children are not smart enough to understand the true story here and that really bugs me. We should be authentic in our story telling to children (especially in true story cases) or just not tell those stories at all. Again maybe this is just not a good story to be in an illustrated book. The only people I can think that might be interested in this are those whom collect or are obsessed with the Cottingley incident.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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