The Fairy Chronicles by J.H Sweet: Marigold and the Feather of Hope & Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams

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Sweet, J.H. Marigold and the Feather of Hope (Fairy Chronicles #1). Independently published, 2007. ISBN 978-1520640099 116 pp. $6.99

Sweet, J.H. Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams. (Fairy Chronicles #2)Sweet, J.H. Marigold and the Feather of Hope (Fairy Chronicles #1). Independently published, 2007. ISBN  978-1520640280. 112 pp. $6.99

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This new fantasy series with appeal to early elementary school age girls concerns four nine year olds who discover they are fairies, each with a special power. They become fast friends, taking seriously their charge to be “problem solvers, helpers, fixers, and protectors of nature.”

In Marigold and the Feather of Hope, the Journey Begins, Sweet sets up the premise and explains the rules of the fairy world that Marigold/Beth and her three new friends have been inducted into; thus, there is a lot of telling and explaining. In Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams, much of the first chapter is taken up with backstory, making for a stand alone novel with a long intro.  Each episodic story presents a problem to solve, and the resourceful girls come to the rescue, first in reclaiming the feather of Hope that belongs to the Brownies, and then stopping a proliferation of nightmares.

Some of the conventions are very clever: a personalized fairy handbook that ages with it’s owner acts as a moral compass, to some degree. The nut messaging system, with notes tucked inside nuts and delivered by birds, brings Harry Potter to mind. Instead of relying on traditional mythologies and meanings of trees and flowers, Sweet develops her own. Willow trees, for example, facilitate communication, gremlins fear vacuum cleaners, and dachshunds; and drommelaks cause nightmares.

The writing is sometimes wooden – adult characters speak in proper sentences without conjunctions. The shift in point of view to a dog near the end of book one disrupts the flow of the narrative. The full color illustrations are detailed and charming, but on at least one occasion complicate or detract from the text, such as a depiction of a foaming mug of root beer, when the text clearly states the characters are drinking out of bottles.

Each book in the series concludes with some extras: a craft or recipe, some background about a plant or animal, and additional information about something fairy related, such as the Cottingley Fairie fraud, or Morgan Le Fey. The background material adds a nice little something extra, although no sources are cited.

Although the overall idea is charming, the point of the books is so obviously to build character in girls that it detracts from the charm of the concept. The mentors, fairy books, and even a journal impart lessons rather than gently guiding. Because of the didacticism of the books, they are recommended only as a secondary purchase for large collections.

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