The Fairy Ring

Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (A True Story)
The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (A True Story). 184p. photos. bibliog. index. notes. Candlewick. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5670-6; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5965-3.
RedReviewStarGr 4–8—Fairy Ring recounts the story of cousins Elsie Wright, 15, and Frances Griffiths, 9, who lived in Cottingley, Yorkshire, England, during World War I. The girls, using Elsie's dad's camera and painted paper cutouts, staged photographs of fairies that they claimed to see near the stream behind their house. The book does a lovely job of portraying the youngsters in a well-rounded way; Losure does not shy away from clearly stating that they lied, but also takes time to demonstrate their motivations behind creating (and sustaining) the hoax. The characters of Mr. Edward Gardner, a member of the Theosophical Society, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle provide an interesting glimpse into the mystical ideas that were de rigueur in the 1900s, and the role that intense desire for something to be true can have in swaying our beliefs. The inclusion of the actual photographs and correspondences between the two girls and the two men who wished to prove to the world that fairies exist add depth and reality to the story. This is well-written nonfiction that reads like a novel; former fans and secret believers of fairy stories will thoroughly enjoy this account of how two girls fooled the world.—Nicole Waskie-Laura, Chenango Forks Elementary, Binghamton, NY
Losure has written a well-researched and engaging account of what happened when Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two young cousins in early twentieth century England, staged some photographs of fairies (reproduced here). Focusing sympathetically on the girls, the straightforward narrative goes on to report how they responded as adults when the story periodically resurfaced in the media. Bib., ind.
The yearning for the supernatural and the magical to be real seems timeless. In the early years of the twentieth century it was fairies that intrigued, especially those in a handful of photographs made by two girls in England. Word of the photographs spread quickly, causing Arthur Conan Doyle and others to feel that they proved the existence of fairies once and for all. Losure has written an engaging account of the affair, focusing sympathetically on the two young photographers, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. Beginning with Frances's move from South Africa to the village of Cottingley, where she shared a bedroom with her cousin Elsie, Losure provides a straightforward narrative that gives young readers a sense of the girls' different personalities (Elsie "loved a good laugh, she loved to paint, and she didn't like being teased"; Frances was a solitary observer of nature); the girls' daily life in WWI Yorkshire; and the type of small events (a father's teasing) that may well have provoked them to stage the photographs. She goes on to report what happened when they grew up, especially how they responded when the story periodically resurfaced in the media. Losure has done her research -- studying the photographs (reproduced here) themselves, reading all the relevant publications, and, most importantly, digging deep into primary source material, including letters, interviews, and Frances's autobiography. Fine source notes and a bibliography are included. monica edinger

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