I was given a most fabulous gift this week. My favorite reading teacher, Mrs. Brandt, brought me a surprise from her recent vacation trip. A book. A most wondrous book. A book that she had a hard time finding, but one that she knew I would treasure. A book that she saw and then didn’t see and had to go on a hunt for. A book called A Finder’s Magic. And it happened to be magical that she found it!
It begins —
There was a boy who went to bed in despair. All night he dreamed his despair, and he woke to desperation. Then he slept again and dreamed, this time a short, strange dream. He dreamed of a garden gate and someone waiting there.
What a way to begin a tale! A boy in despair! What does this portend?
This tale has a fascinating back story. The author, Ms Pearce, who is the author of many award-winning children’s books, wrote this particular story for her grandsons, Nat and Will. (The name of the boy in the book is Tillawn, an anagram of Nat and Will.) Ms Pearce wrote the story specifically to be illustrated by Nat and Will’s other grandmother, Ms Craig. Ms Craig is an acclaimed illustrator of many children’s books. Can you imagine having TWO such grandmothers?! Well, Ms Pearce died about the time that Ms Craig began work on the illustrations for her story. So she never got to see the end result! I think that she would have liked it very much.
So, for the story — It’s the story of a boy who has lost his dog. A dog that he loves very, very, very much. That’s why he is in despair. The dog, Bess, is his best friend in the world. The love that the boy feels for Bess pours out of every page of this book. One day on their daily walk Bess somehow manages to come out of her collar and races ahead where she disappears in Gammer’s Meadow. Till, the boy, could not find her anywhere. Despair. Oh, I could feel his tears.
A strange man appears at Till’s gate and tells Till that he is a Finder and will find Bess. What follows is a fantabulous tale of magic and witches and mysterious goings-on. A detective fairy tale! I was on pins and needles through the whole book! But there is a most glorious ending that finds Till and his “Best in the Whole Wide World Dog” reunited in true bliss!
This is a lovely, lovely fairy tale about two brothers who are swineherds living at the edge of a deep, dark forest. The forest is inhabited by “the green people”, fairy people who can only be seen by moonlight and who are greatly feared by everyone outside of the forest. But one evening during a storm, the good brother, Jack, heard a voice in the woods crying for help. He could not resist the cry and ventured into the forest where he found a little green man in great distress. Jack helped him back to his family who were so grateful that they rewarded Jack with a magical ring that would bring to Jack a magical wife.
This is a great fairy tale about bravery and doing the right thing. About the rewards of good deeds. About judging and misjudging people without truly knowing who they really are. It’s a picture book with a lot of words. But it’s well worth the read. And the illustrations are beautiful. The story has given me a whole new perspective on all these squirrels that run around the 7 Acre Wood. I am seeing them in a new light.
Both of these books are fairy tales, but not retellings of old tales. They are new tales from the inventive mind of Ms Pearce that take you back to an old time. I think she must have had an old soul.
Find out about the Phillipa Pearce Memorial Lecture HERE.
I’ll sign off with a commercial break —