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 be  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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The Giant and How He Humbugged America

 

Author: Jim Murphy

Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus reviews)

Interest Range: 9-14

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Plot: In the year 1869, a farmer discovered what was thought to be a “petrified man” on his property. For months. the country was fascinated by the find, especially because the man was over 10 feet tall- a real giant! Was he a giant from the local Native American legends? Or even from biblical times? Can a man even be petrified? This book tells the story of the Cardiff Giant and those who were closest to him: the farmer on whose property they found him, the men who did the digging, and the man who set out to fool America into paying him a fortune. Along the way you’ll even hear about about the famous circus man, P. T. Barnum and his own part in the tale. How could a sculpture fool so many people? You’ll have to read to find out!

Review: The subject material was interesting, focusing on how someone was able to pull off such a big stunt and fool so many people. It also talked about the importance of doing your research and being thorough when looking for answers. At the end of the book, the author talks about his own research and writing process for anyone who is intrigued enough to keep reading. I felt that it was factual and progressed fast enough to hold the attention of kids who are used to fast-paced fiction. It even read like fiction sometimes, since it was so hard to believe that a statue could have fooled so many “scientific” and “learned” people. Underneath the story it definitely speaks to the importance of finding the real answer, something librarians and teachers alike can appreciate.

Themes: History, Research, Lies

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

William “Stub” Newell: The owner of the farm on which the Cardiff Giant was found. Also one of the original  owners of the Giant.

George Hull: The original prankster who set  out to create the Giant in order to make money fooling people. He had the sculpture made, aged, and planted it himself on Newell’s farm.

Bibliographic Info:

Murphy, J. (2012). The Giant and How He Humbugged America. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

There’s a sucker born every minute- and in the late 1800s, America was full of them. One man’s statue fooled millions into thinking that a petrified giant had been found in New York State.