Fortune's Magic Farm, by Suzanne Selfors

Fortune's Magic Farm, by Suzanne Selfors (Little Brown 2009, 264pp)--released today!

Once the town was called Sunny Cove. Now it is Runny Cove, where the rain never stops. No sun has ever shone on ten year-old Isabelle, as she hurries to and from Mr. Supreme's Umbrella Factory, where almost all the townsfolk work. Everything has always been gray and mouldy and slug-strewn.

Except for the apple, a thing of beauty, that an elephant seal spits out at Isabelle one fateful day when she wanders down to the dismal town beach.

Isabelle's grandmother is sick, perhaps dying. The greedy umbrella factory owner is making his virtually-enslaved workers work even longer hours. Mama Lu, owner of the boarding house where Isabelle lives, has discovered Isabella's pet slugs, with disastrously salty consequences. It will take more than an apple, however beautiful, to put things right with Isabelle and her miserable town. It will take a whole garden.

Unable to stand her miserable town any longer, Isabelle journeys across the ocean (on the back of the same obliging elephant seal) to a paradise--a garden of wonderful delight, protected by magic from the greedy eyes of Mr. Supreme and his ilk. This is Fortune's magic farm, a nature preserve of magical plants (curative cherries, floating fronds, vice vines, magnetic mangoes and the like). It is Isabelle's birthright, and her responsibility.

But how can she enjoy paradise while the rain keeps falling on Runny Cove? Especially when she learns that her own parents, whom she never knew, were implicated in its disastrous fall into dampness? Keeping the farm going is vitally important--its plants exist no where else. But surely it is also important to help others (and Selfors does a very nice job with Isabelle's internal struggle here).

I enjoyed this one, especially the dystopia for the young reader that is Runny Cove. Unlike Isabelle, I was a little disappointed when the story took us off to Fortune's farm, where, instead of slugs and evil boarding house matrons, we encountered the pleasures of a sunny garden filled with whimsical magical plants. Maybe I'm just too cynical to enjoy whimsical magical plants, but the wonderful farm never felt as real as the miserable town. However, doubtless the target audience of ten year-oldish girls will find the garden delightful...

My dear husband accuses me, with some justice, of perpetrating gender stereotypes here. In my defense, even though there is a strong supporting character who is a boy, I doubt that any ten year-old male will be drawn to a book whose cover features a pink and purple umbrella, lots of pretty flowers, and a cute fuzzy animal. And a girl. So I will passing this book along to my public library, where it can find its female readership. Any time my husband wants to convince our boys to read it, he is welcome too...

Edited to add--well, I'm wrong here. In Fuse #8's review, she mentions a boy reader who enjoyed this a lot. It just goes to show. Maybe the slugs at the beginning will draw the boys in...


  1. I have to admit, I rather preferred the dreary cove town, too...but it was a sweet, nice little book. :)

  2. You know, I think my son (age 8) might really like this. He likes pretty flowers and fuzzy animals, and even girls are okay in his books. What he doesn't like is scary--how bad is it in Runny Cove?

  3. I dunno, Annamaria--I thought Mama Lu was a bit on the nightmarish side. But I'm Sensitive. If my own 8 year old agrees, I can read him the first few chapters, to see what he thinks.

  4. Good to know we're not the only Sensitive ones. Please do let me know how it goes!

  5. My 9 1/2 year old son just read this in 2 weeks time for a book report project at school. He did not choose the book, but he absolutely loved it. The book cover must have been changed because the one he read has a cow with an apple on it's head and Rolo with a curative cherry in his mouth.

    1. I had forgotten my thoughts on the cover of this one! The one you describe sounds much more boy friendly, and I'm glad your son enjoyed it!


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