Our house seems to draw a huge crowd of the mystical and magical lately. Every since we discovered Forest Fairies with the help of our friend Maureen (of Strong Start fame) and The Last Unicorn showed up in the DVD player, our house transformed into a fairytale land that pretty much skips the prince and princess thing and goes right for the slightly off-center.
On any given day, you’ll find us treasure hunting, riding the skies with Amalthea the unicorn or collecting magic crystals. The magic wand must be in hand at all times (there’s nothing like a trip to the forest, magic-wand style) and apparently we are our daughter’s second set of parents. We saved her, she tells us, after her fairy family died in a really “horrible can of soup”.
I’m a big fan of a world in which imagination is the name of the game, so we stick with the can-of-soup theory, magic wand in hand, and have discovered some absolutely gorgeous stories to keep this enchanted land blossoming.
Unicorns are the cool creature of choice in the purple-minded tiny person’s universe right now. So, I’ve spent a WHOLE lot of time searching for age-appropriate books about our one-horned friends (not an easy task). There are TONS of great adventure novels for mid-grade readers and young adults. But, the unicorn universe is a tricky one to maneuver for the 4-to-8-year-old crowd.
We seriously hit the jackpot with The Midnight Unicorn by Neil Reed.
An insta-hit for bed time reading at our house, the tiny person insisted that we replace the little girl’s name with hers and go from there. This story about a girl whose favourite spot in the world is a park where a giant unicorn statue stands takes us on an adventure of imagination as the unicorn comes alive and they discover the world together.
It’s smart, sweet and entirely charming – giving every child the permission to see the world through their own imagination, away from the adult mantra of “you were just dreaming.”
Reed, a super talented writer and illustrator, brings this story alive through his soft, warm illustrations and makes us want to jump right into the book, live in that dream land forever.
Our daughter also has a penchant for the bit more mysterious and dark (I’m shocked, who could that have come from:)), so tales of goblins, dwarves, secret caves and hidden wonders are WAY up there on her list.
We’ve gotten a fair bit into Hans Cristian Andersen-style “fairy tales” lately, which most definitely take you down a bit less happy-go-lucky path but have the fantastic effect of teaching thoughtful lessons of life in ways that kids really get.
In my search for a mysterious, magical adventure for us to dive into, we ended up with a gem of a picture book that has taken imagination to a whole new level in our house.
The Magic Crystal by Brigitte Weninger, illustrated by Robert Ingpen makes our tiny person’s eyes turn into saucers at the mere mention of reading it and her imagination run wild.
This tale of a sweet dwarf who has spent his life in hiding because he isn’t so pretty reveals how a pureness of heart and genuinely kind spirit brings unending friendship and love. An excellent lesson in the consequences of greed and selfishness, as well as peaceful resolution and loving yourself for who you are, makes it also a book that offers deep lessons.
The dwarf goes to the mountain one day and discovers a whole drove of crystal dwarfs in need of someone to finish their song. When he does, from his heart, he’s taken to meet the crystal king who shows the ugly dwarf that he is truly beautiful inside. The dwarf is followed by a stinky old troll for whom the results are a discovery in his own darkness and we, in the end, see that the dwarf lives out his days in happiness. The troll disappears forever.
Ingpen’s muted, earth tone illustrations make this story a bit mysterious, brightened by the shiny crystals that will intrigue any youngster. The book was not originally well received by critics, but I find it both enchanting and fun in that it’s NOT the normal brightly coloured illustrations. It takes kids beyond that and, if you have a tiny person like mine who thinks that a bit spooky is totally cool, finding books with this patina is a very interesting way to let them explore “the dark side” a little without scaring them. Don’t get me wrong, this story is gentle and warm in the telling. But, it’s not your normal fairy tale scene.
There were lots and lots of questions after reading this story. In fact, it seemed like every time we read it (which seemed like a million before returning it to the library), new questions popped up about why the troll was so grumpy, about being beautiful on the inside, about sharing and where crystals come from and if there are dwarfs on Mt. Washington.
It also led our daughter on her own new adventures. The “magic crystals” that we now seem to find at every turn all have different stories attached to them and she is now very curious about what people look like on the inside. We’ve got lots of new imaginary friends too, and apparently the fairies are very good at keeping the stinky old trolls away.
Finding those books that resonate with your child’s imagination is absolutely amazing. That look of sheer wonder and watching as the stories, adventures and so much more evolves makes for one of those truly priceless times in your life as a parent and theirs as a child. I know we all remember those stories, movies, songs that stick with us forever.
These two books are on the Forever List here, I’m pretty sure. Definitely worth a peek into and both are available at your local library or independent book seller.
About the Author (Author Profile)Robin Rivers is Our Big Earth’s Publisher and Sr. Partner. Able to survive on coffee alone. Often can be found leaping tall buildings with the help of great friends. Predisposed to odd hats and the color orange. In love with imagination, her kids and that crazy guy who married her.
Sites That Link to this Post
- The Best Children's Books of 2009 | Our Big Earth | December 28, 2009