Much as I like fairy stories I have to say that the children’s book market has been a tad saturated with those fey creatures of late. And so I was a bit dubious when I first saw Lesley M. M. Blume’s Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate. Not only was it fairies, modern ones mind you, but it had one of those narrators-who-isn’t-the-actual-author — another overly popular trope.
But let me tell you, this book feels fresh and different. Yes, reader, I liked it. The matter-of-fact Ms. McFate not only provides us with a good deal of useful information about modern and historical fairies, but links these informational sections with a bunch of cautionary tales about their ways in New York City today. In such fantastical places as the Lincoln Tunnel, the subway, the Staten Island ferry, Coney Island, and Carnegie Hall not-always-very-nice things happen with all sorts of creatures. The tart and clearheaded Ms. McFate tells her stories without holding anything back — there are disappearances, deaths, and other sad fates — but she also tells them in a way that works for middle grade kids. That is, more gloomy than violent, I’d say, sort of ghost-storyish. Nicely complementing the text are David Foote’s black and white illustrations that, although totally different in style, work somewhat like Edward Gorey’s for the Treehorn books. (Hmm…I’ve been trying to think what this book is like — maybe it does have a bit of Heide’s sort of sensibility. Or even Lemony Snicket just a bit.) So there you are — a new and different modern fairy book that is not YA urban fantasy, but for middle grade kids. Here’s the book trailer to give you a bit more of a taste: