Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lily and the Fairy House - Jane Tanner

A book that celebrates the imagination is always a welcome addition to any child’s bookcase and Jane Tanner’s latest contribution deserves pride of place. Any child who loves fairies and is familiar with Isabella’s Secret will be overjoyed to discover its sequel, Lily and the Fairy House. Tanner knows what it is like to dream as a child does, to conjure up a miniature fantasy world, fit it out with all the necessities then step into it and live there for a time. This picture-story book is an irresistible invitation for children to step inside Lily’s imagination and share in her make-believe fairy-world by dreaming along with her.
Lily finds a hollow space in a gum tree in her secret place in the garden and decides this would be the perfect spot for a fairy house. She sets about furnishing it with leaves, petals and gumnuts and arranging the table for a fairy party. But will the fairies come? Every child reading along with the story will be holding their breath with Lily at this point – and will share in her exuberance when ‘a group of tiny people dance in and out of the shadows like shining fireflies’. And more so as the fairies ask Lily if they can play with her. The rest is a joyful wingding as the fairies frolic on Lily’s ribbon-swing and sail in her leaf-boat; they even make Lily a fairy crown out of flowers. However, there is a sudden commotion and the fairies vanish as quickly as they arrive. Lily must find out why.
This is a thoroughly engaging book with exquisitely detailed illustrations that capture the warmth and gentleness of the story. The pictures are drawn in pencil on watercolour paper and coloured with watercolours, soft pastel and coloured pencil. Tanner has used photographs of actual children as her models, posing them in the positions she has Lily and her fairies in the book and by basing the detail of her illustrations on Australian flora and fauna, Tanner has produced tenderly realistic images that lend themselves to gazing at and daydreaming over. As an added bonus, the dust cover opens out to reveal a delightful poster of Australian native flowers and their accompanying fairies.
Lily and the Fairy House is a warm-hearted picture book that is a celebration of wishing, dreaming and imagining rolled into one magical reading experience.
Penguin/Viking 2012
(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 27, Issue 2, May 2012)

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