or Elsie and Frances Fool the World
a true story
by Mary Losure
Candlewick Press, 2012
Middle Grade Nonfiction
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, and another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world.
Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them "dancing" around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren’t real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies
— and wanted very much to see one? Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family’s archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.
I admit I found the premise of this book fascinating. I mean two girls who fake a photograph of fairies? As I read the book I found the story a testament to the dangers of telling lies and then more lies to cover the original lies. While Frances and Elsie didn't mean any harm when they created the original photographs (which are included in the book), they ended up creating quite a controversy. It was sad that the reason they created the photographs in the first place was because their parents mocked and teased them. That is not how parents should treat their children in my opinion. And it seems that they kept the secret because they didn't want their parents to tease them more or know that they had lied.
I found it rather startling to realize that Frances really seemed to believe she had seen fairies on numerous occasions. And that others spent so much time and effort trying to prove that fairies existed, Mr. Gardner and Arthur Conan Doyle for example. I guess that shouldn't be so surprising in that we have people today doing the same thing with ghosts, Bigfoot, and other such creatures. I have to wonder though how much of it was honest belief and how much was a wish to believe in such things. Either way, Frances did seem to believe that fairies existed and that she had seen some, despite the fact that the fairies in the photographs were paper cutouts made by Elsie.
The third thing that I found surprising was how real looking the fairies in the photographs are. Elsie was clearly a talented artist and put a lot of effort into creating them. And the fact that the two young girls created such clear and well-done photos in only a couple of shots is definitely intriguing. A fascinating story about the power of belief and the trouble that a lie can cause, I can recommend this one with ease.
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