Review: Fairy Spell by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real
By Marc Tyler Nobleman
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Clarion Books (HMH)
You thought fake news was new? Way before intentional misinformation was spread to influence elections, we had a more humble form of hoax. At their most intriguing, hoaxes can offer a version of reality that seems almost impossible yet inescapably alluring. In Fairy Spell, Mark Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel) recounts a hoax perpetrated by two girls in England – a couple kids who tried to fool their family and ended up fooling the world.
Cottingley, England, 1917. Elsie and Frances Griffiths tell their parents they saw faries near their cottage. They even had the (rather convincing, but faked) photos to prove it. The girls’ father was dubious, but their mother (Polly) thought the Elise and Frances were telling the truth. The hoax a mild success, this could have been the end of the story, but then Polly showed them to Edward Gardner, who put them in the hands of Arthur Conan Doyle (yes that Arthur Conan Doyle). A.C.D. made the photos famous, running them in the popular Strand magazine. From there the hoax really took hold, lasting for decades, until 81-year-old Elise came clean. Back matter includes an author’s note and bibliography.
The illustrations are classic Eliza Wheeler – elegant lines with a lush palatte. The book makes good use of primary documents – photos, magazines and newspapers, and of course the illustrations that Elsie and Frances used to pull the wool on people the world over.
A hoax that started small and grew into something two kids could have never imagined, Fairy Spell is a fascinating story and a perfect jumping off point for discussion on how misinformation can spread.
Review copy from the publisher.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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