Imagine, if you will, a book that's The Flower Fairies meets Hatchet (Gary Paulson), but a book that's much more character driven and with much more lyrical writing than either. That's the feeling I got from The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick, Feb. 23, 2010, 117 pp in ARC form).
I loved it, and I highly, highly recommend it, particularly for 8 or 9 year old girls who are still gaining confidence in their reading. It's simple, yet engrossing (and beautiful, with full color illustrations by Angela Barrett).
The Night Fairy tells of Flory, a fairy child still growing into her wings. One night when Flory (being a night fairy) is out and about a little brown bat makes a mistake that costs her dearly. With her wings crunched up by bat teeth, Flory is trapped, alone and terrified of the bat-bringing dark. So she decides to be a day fairy, fiercely determined to survive alone in a strange and alien world.
And that includes becoming a part of it--making an alliance, of sorts, with a squirrel (who's motivated by his constant desire for tasty snacks), and then, in a rather lovely coming of age experience, saving two little hummingbird eggs when their mother is ensnared by a spider's web.
"She pressed her palms flat against the shells and began to sing. She sang a spell of comfort for small living things. As she sang, she thought of the warmest things she knew....
By the time she finished singing, the two little eggs hummed with life. Flory pushed them together and tucked the grass quilt over them. "Now," she said, "you must stay warm until your mother comes home." She stopped down and kissed the quilt twice. "I'm going to bring her home soon," she added, "but you'll be warm through the night."
She felt to make sure her dagger was still at her side. Then she wrapped both hands around the nearest barberry twig, kicked off from the nest, and swung herself down through the branches." (pp 72-73 in ARC form).
Sweet, yet tough (she makes her own dagger! Takes on insect monsters!), vulnerable, yet self-reliant--Flory is a superb addition to the fairy repertoire of younger middle grade readers. I can't wait to see the book in its finished form, with its final illustrations.
One reason why I am particularly curious to see the final illustrations is to be certain that I can legitimately promote this book as a Reading in Color title. I think that Flory, as shown on the cover and interior illustration available in this online excerpt, looks like she is Black. Doret, of The HappyNappyBookseller, thought the same. So I'm going with it...
Other reviews: As well as Doret's comments linked to above, Betsy at Fuse #8 has a review of the final book.
(disclosure: I received an arc from the publisher)