By Kathy Morrison McClatchy Newspapers
All the little girls out there who like to wave magic wands, wear their tutus to the grocery store and their tiaras to bed, these two new books are for you.
Actually, “The Night Fairy” by Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz ($16.99, ages 6 to 9) and “The Very Little Princess” by Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer ($12.99, ages 6 to 9), will appeal to anyone who believes in the power of imagination. It’s just that, at a certain age, little girls wear that belief on their puffy pink princess sleeves.
Both tales have a strength at their core, a message that learning to depend on yourself is worth any magic.
In “The Night Fairy,” young Flory is attacked by a bat, who spits her out but not before her wings are destroyed. She lands in the garden of a giant (well, a human). Without wings, Flory cannot escape and decides to adapt to daylight.
For a being as tiny as she is, some of her adventures in the garden are harrowing, but she’s one resilient fairy. For instance, she turns Skuggle, the squirrel who keeps trying to eat her — boy, do squirrels have one-track minds — into a friend and, ta-da, a mode of transport.
Schlitz employs a gentle sense of humor and delightful descriptions that will send young readers into their back yards looking for evidence of fairies. Angela Barrett’s color illustrations beautifully enhance the tale.
“The Very Little Princess” takes a sad premise — a mother leaving her child — and wraps it in a protective fantasy. During an argument between her mother and her never-before-seen grandmother, Zoey wanders upstairs in her mother’s childhood home, where she discovers a tiny china doll, Regina, who comes alive. This find links Zoey to generations of little girls and offers hope that she, too, will endure.
I would argue against Bauer’s twist at the end — it changes the fantasy — but that might be in anticipation of more Regina stories. This one’s pretty good by itself.