Jethro Byrde: Fairy Child

Young children love to believe in fairies. The second line of this book sets the tone for the conflict between adult scepticism and childhood beliefs: ‘“Sadly, Annie,” he said, “you won’t find fairies in cement and weeds – so far as I know.”’ Annabel, who firmly believes in these so-called mythical creatures, sets out to prove her dad wrong and searches relentlessly among the weeds and rubble of her urban neighbourhood. When Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child, and his quaint fairy family literally drop out of the sky, her dreams really do come true. In this fascinating and humorous tale, she helps them to get their hot dog van back in action again. Then, before they resume their aerial journey to the fairy travellers’ picnic, she invites them home for tea with her parents. Mum and Dad humour their daughter by playing along with her ‘imaginative charade’.

This is a wonderful piece of fiction, helping children to bask in the knowledge that fairies really do exist but are invisible to sceptical adults. Graham’s lavish and detailed pen-and-ink drawings greatly enhance the storyline and lend further humour to the story. My first class of thirty wobbly-toothed, fairy-expectant youngsters was entirely thrilled with this tale. This is one of those storybooks that will be browsed through again and again.

The language includes some American terms – ‘service station’, ‘sneakers’, ‘tailpipe’ – whose meanings may have to be briefly explained to an Irish audience, but these easily read terms are supported by the illustrations and the context. The language is simple and childlike, suitable for its intended audience. Graham’s richly detailed depiction of an urban sprawl on the cover page pitches the story into its context and immediately familiarises the reader with Annabel’s city neighbourhood, providing more rich material for discussion and examination.

A charming piece of work!