Friday, February 26, 2010

A Dose of Reality in a World of Magic

I used to think I was not a fan of fantasy books. I now know that’s not true. I just hadn’t read the right ones yet. The fantasies that draw me in are stories in which tightly constructed worlds that seem on the surface to be completely unlike my own cause me to think about my own world differently.

What would it be like to wake up one day and realize you were truly gifted in some way you’d never imagined? That premise could apply to any number of fantasy books (Harry Potter, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief ). The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett, however, puts a slightly different twist on this idea: a magical being is rendered rather ordinary, because she cannot use her wings after a bat accidentally crumples them. Flory must figure out how to get from here to there, find shelter from her predators, gather food one cherry at a time because that’s all she can hold. And she must do all these things without her wings.

For Flory, now nearly everything in Nature poses a threat. She is, understandably, angry. Things are not going the way they were supposed to go. And yet she figures out how to take care of herself in this new predicament. She grows accustomed to her new routine. She begins to accept her situation as it is. And that turns things around for Flory. She opens up to the possibilities around her, for friendship and forgiveness and flights on hummingbird wings. This is the paradox: as Flory begins to accept her new reality and the world the way it is, she also sees a world of opportunities in front of her.

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