The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Although I do have the “retro review” label on this one, it is a much newer book than I expected when I saw the style of illustrations and read the first few pages. So many books aimed at this category, even ones written a decade ago, are very much focused on being loud and exciting to draw in the reader’s attention. If Laura Amy Schlitz did not already have the prestigious Newbery Award behind her, I’m not sure The Night Fairy is the type of book that would have had the chance to be seen on shelves—whether it debuted in 2010 or today.
I am so, so glad this book got its opportunity to be read.
Books in this age category tend to hit one of two problems for me: either the author is hesitant to put the characters in any real danger or the author is hesitant to give the characters quiet moments. Or both, I suppose. Books that are a constant barrage of jokes are all well and good, but I dislike the idea that children won’t get invested in a book unless it is making them laugh on every single page. The Night Fairy certainly has its lighthearted and funny moments—Flory trying to get help from a squirrel with a very one-track mind is pretty adorable. But it’s also okay with the serious moments.
The Night Fairy’s story is simple but never talks down to its audience. Flory is a night fairy, but after an attack from a bat, she loses her wings and tries to become a day fairy instead. She looks for ways she can adapt (she sees a hummingbird and thinks to tame it) rather than resetting everything back to normal. The simple truth that sometimes life just throws something nasty at you doesn’t often get dealt with in children’s fantasy literature—it’s generally reserved for contemporary fiction. But the great thing about fantasy is that it can deal with the tough stuff while taking a step backwards, putting that magical barrier between the audience and the harsher truths of reality. There’s ultimately no villain in the story, either, which I loved. This age category is rife with two-dimensional bully characters who never change and never have any specific reason for acting the way they do. But an accident or misunderstanding can still cause pain and hardship, too.
The Night Fairy has become one of my last-second happy surprises of a really rough year. Its language is poetic and a joy to listen to. Its illustrations are classic and vibrant. I’ve happily made it an addition to my children’s library.
Rating: 5 out of 5
You can find The Night Fairy on Goodreads
You can also buy The Night Fairy on Amazon. (Affiliate link)