Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


One of the famous Cottingly Fairy photos - this one shows a gnome.
My daughter, Mary, and I recently re-watched the 1997 movie, FairyTale: A True Story. (It was first released when she was 10 years old.)  Discussing it later, we decided we liked the movie because the director went in more of a "what if" direction, than a "what really happened" direction, which makes it appealing to both kids and adults.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The film is based on an intriguing and true story (quite altered for the film) about two girls who claim to have seen fairies and take photographs to prove it.  In real life, what began as a prank soon got out of hand.  The story was publicized and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was fooled (which was one of the main reasons the girls had a hard time admitting it wasn't true)!  It wasn't until much later in their lives that both girls admitted that the photos were a hoax. To read about the real incident, click HERE.

Fairies were a common part of legends and folklore of the Middle Ages before they ever began showing up (complete with wings) in Victorian illustration and children's stories. One explanation of the origin of fairies appears in a chapter about Peter Pan in J. M. Barrie's 1902 novel, The Little White Bird, and was incorporated into his later works about the character. Barrie wrote,

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies."
Peter's Friends by Margaret Tarrant

Many books have brought fairy stories to life.  Edmund Spencer, Shakespeare, The Brothers Grimm, and J.M. Barrie were well-know authors who helped popularize fairies with their writings; but the author/illustrator who probably contributed the most fairy books and fairy illustrations for young children was Cicely Mary Barker (June 1895 – February 1973).

Barker, a British illustrator and poet, who was a favorite of Queen Mary, wrote a series of eight FLOWER FAIRY books, published from 1923 through 1948.  

Cicely had epilepsy as a child and was educated at home.

During her lifetime the Titanic sank, World War I began, and fairies were gaining popularity.  

J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan was published in 1906. 

In 1915-16 Edmund Dulac's Fairy Book and Elves and Fairies (featuring illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite) was published, and fairies suddenly became a trend with Queen Mary. 

In 1917 the "Cottingly Fairies" were photographed, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Coming of Fairies (which included the photos) in 1922.

CLICK HERE to see the list and images of all Cicely Mary Barker's flower fairies - delightful!

AND HERE to see cute Flower Fairy Fabric!

Are Fairies and Fairytales good for your children?  Consider this quote by G.K. Chesterton:

"Not only can these fairy-tales be enjoyed because they are moral, but morality can be enjoyed because it puts us in fairyland, in a world at once of wonder and of war."

Growing up, I even learned some lessons from "FRACTURED FAIRYTALES" - are you old enough to remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?

This volume brings together Barker's fairy illustrations and poems from the eight original Flower Fairy books.

A FLOWER FAIRY ALPHABET, by Cicely Mary Barker.

THE RUNAWAY FAIRY, by Molly Brett.

IF YOU SEE A FAIRY RING, by Susan Lockhart.
The title of this poetry anthology is borrowed from the poem: "If you see a fairy ring, In a field of grass, Very lightly step around, Tiptoe as you pass. . . ." Young readers will likely be enthralled by this collection of verse about fairies and fairyland. The impressive list of contributors includes Robert Graves, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Thomas Hood.

A lucky little girl is invited by the flower fairies to join them for their Midsummer festival. Gathering around Queen Rose, all the flowers and bumblebees and birds tell their enchanting stories, while the Dew-cups and Pea-blossom serve refreshments.

COME TO THE FAIRIES' BALL, by Jane Yolen, illustrations by Gary Lippincott.
The king has set forth an invitation to the fairies: come to the ball! And everyone is in a delightful tizzy, searching for their top hats, their boots, and their crowns - and where-oh-where are those spider-web gowns? The fairies finally arrive, towed by swans, rowed by fish, and one group of five got there fast on a wish. But one fairy is left behind, her only dress in tatters. What should she do? The resident ants offer her some wise words.


  1. LOVE fairies! They are some of my favorite things! I shall add these books to our lists. Thank you Wendy! Love your blog!

  2. What an excellent comprehensive article this is! I have been interested in the hoax, but you've done a great job of getting me interested in all the lore associated with them.

    (As I recall, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was annoyed that the Sherlock Holmes stories were so popular, since he thought it took away from his important and "serious" work of discussing fairies and spirits and such.)

  3. Kind of ironic that Sir Arthur couldn't solve the mystery of the Cottingly Fairies, huh? :)