The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

Author: Mary Losure

Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Non-fiction, History/Biography

Plot: Frances and Elsie lived in England during World War I. The two young girls would often play in the beck behind Elsie’s house, a wooded area with a stream and waterfall, where they would both often see “little green men” wandering about while they were playing. In an outburst, Frances told her mother about the fairies and from then on was teased by her family. One day Elsie had the idea to prove them wrong, and take a picture of the fairies. But her fairies were actually painted drawings, and the girls pulled off a photo convincing enough to eventually make them the center of much attention. Even the famous writer of Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wanted to believe that the girls’ photos were real. This is the story of two young girls who managed to fool a lot of people, and held on to their secret until they were grandmothers themselves.

Review: I had heard about the photos before reading this book, and was glad to finally hear the entire story. Elsie and Frances were two pretty remarkable young girls in their ability to keep a secret, but pretty normal in every other way. It was definitely an interesting look at how far people will push an idea when they really want it to beĀ  reality. The girls’ creativity and ability to manipulate a relatively new technology really captured the hearts and minds of many people, some very prominent and known for their powers of deduction. I think that when viewed from this angle, their story is very relevant in today’s world of constantly changing technological advancements. In the age of photoshop and the Internet, people are constantly manipulating images to try and prove a point or idea. This story might be a fun way to show how that can sometimes actually work, emphasizing the importance of further research and checking sources before believing in fantastic stories.

Themes: Changes at Home, Lies, Tough Issues (war-time life, dropping out of school)

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Elsie: A school dropout with artistic abilities. It was Elsie who drew and painted the fairies, devised the plan, and took the photos, all at the age of 15. Those who believed her photos the most were harsh critics of her other artwork and said that there was no way she could have fabricated the fairies because she had no artistic talent. This criticism hurt her deeply, and she could not refute it unless she told the truth and destroyed the story.

Frances: A young girl of 9 when the story begins, Frances has come with her mother and father to England from South Africa to stay with her Aunt and Uncle and cousin while her father goes off to fight in the war. Frances is the first to see the little green men, and poses for Elsie’s photos to go along with the story and provide proof to stop the teasing from family members.

Aunt Polly and Uncle Arthur: Elsie’s parents and the owner of the house and land where the family was living at the time (Cottingly, Yorkshire, England). It was Uncle Arthur’s camera that Elsie used to take the first photos.

Bibliographic Info:

Losure, M. (2012). The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

How do you tell when to stop telling a lie?

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Smile

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Age Range: 12-18 (Kirkus Review)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Autobiography

Format: Graphic Novel

Plot: Raina is 11 when she knocks out her two front teeth. The dentist is able to save them, but this starts a 4-year battle with braces and various procedures to get her teeth back to looking normal. As if being a metal mouth wasn’t enough, there are boys, and friends, and general growing-up things to worry about. From sixth grade into high school, we get to watch Raina’s journey of self-discovery. How she finally ditches the friends that have been so mean to her for so long and finds herself in artistic expression is an inspiration to readers from every walk of life.

Review: I love this book. Not only is it a very accessible graphic novel for middle grade students, but it’s a true story. A true story about the most volatile and eventful years of everyone’s life, but amplified and chronicled by the repairing of Raina’s smile. No 11-year-old wants braces. They have enough to deal with concerning zits and crushes and constantly shifting friendships and relationships in every facet of their lives. But this book shows how an actual girl made it through all of that and was able to end up better than where she started even though there were some very painful moments (both physical and emotional) along the way.

Themes: Coming of Age, Changing Relationships, Making New Friends, Middle School, Bullying

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Raina: An 11-year-old girl who is about to get braces, but has an accident and knocks out her front two teeth, further complicating the process. Raina is smart, but struggles to find herself among her group of friends. They criticize her for the boys she likes, the way she dresses, and pretty much everything about herself. Eventually Raina stands up for herself and finds her real calling in a high school art class.

The Girl-Scout Troop: Kelli, Jenny, Emily, Kaylah, Nicole, Karin, and Melissa. While some of the girls are closer to her than others, these are the girls who Raina has grown up being friends with. Eventually, she grows apart from most of them.

Sammy: Raina’s first crush. He is one year below her in school and they meet in band class. Raina gets embarrassed when her friends make fun of her for liking someone younger and stands him up at the Valentine’s Day dance.

Sean: Raina’s longer-lasting big crush that goes on through middle school. Raina even tries out for the basketball team to try and get his attention, but she never pursues him further instead deciding to like him from afar.

Theresa: The first new friend Raina makes in high school.

Bibliographic Info:

Telgemeier, R. (2010). Smile. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

You thought middle school was bad enough? Try it with braces.