Jane Yolen,
The Fairies' Ring,
illustrated by Stephen Mackey
(Dutton, 1999)

Bed-time can be a little predictable. Molly, the 4-year-old, typically wants to be read one or two of a select few stories. Her favorites include Madeleine and Curious George. Vinnie, 9, is even more single-minded, preferring a chapter or two from Harry Potter.

Tonight, I tried something new. Tucking a copy of The Fairies' Ring, by Jane Yolen, under my arm, I called both children to the room. Showing them the cover, wonderfully illustrated by Stephen Mackey, I asked them if they were interested in hearing some new stories. Soon, they were nestled together, squirming occasionally to catch a better view of Mackey's interior art, and utterly spellbound by the poems and stories contained within.

Yolen has collected and adapted some marvelous pieces of fairy lore in this slim volume. Only two of them poems -- "The Queen of the Fay" and "Where to Find Fairies" -- are her own; the rest are culled from a variety of famous and lesser-known writers, including Robert Graves, Ben Jonson, Sir Walter Scott, W.B. Yeats and William Shakespeare. The remainder of the book is filled with tales from around the world, collected and revised by Yolen for this publication. Stories include "Thomas the Rhymer," from Scotland; "The Peri Wife," from Persia; "The Fairy Midwife," from England; "The Fee's Changeling," from France; "The Fairies Banished," from Wales; "The Three Fairies of Sandy Batoum," from Greece; "The Stolen Wife," from New Zealand; and "The Lost Spear," from southern Africa.

That's just a sampling of the stories and poetry included here. Add Mackey's lush illustrations, and you have a book that will enrapture children of any age. The poems are mostly just a page or two in length; the stories a few pages longer. Nothing goes on too long, so it's easy to read a handful at one sitting -- the perfect companion for bed-time reading!

I know two children whose bed-time reading list has just expanded.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 6 July 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.