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Evil Fairies Love Hair
by Mary G. Thompson
At Ali’s school, students are breeding fairies. If a child successfully raises a flock of one hundred fairies and passes starter fairies on to another child, he or she will have one wish granted when the next child successfully raises a flock. The wish can be for self-improvement: beauty, brains, or talent; or, a child can cast a curse on another person. Ali has finally gotten her starter fairies and is eager to get her wish, but she soon learns that raising fairies isn’t nearly as easy as she hoped. For starters, fairies like to eat hair. Lots and lots and lots of hair. As Ali talks to the fairies, and to other students, she begins to realize that the fairies are far more sinister than she expected. No one has ever thought to question why the fairies are exchanging wishes to boost their population numbers, but as Ali digs deeper into the fairy world the truths she uncovers are truly disturbing.
Sometimes, a book will capture your attention because of its sheer weirdness. I saw a cover starring a girl with an enormous onion forehead holding a tiny bald creature in the palm of her hand, and stopped to stare. I read the title and wanted to know more. Why would fairies, good or bad, want hair? Once I’d read the back cover I knew I’d have to read this, not because I expected a deep, insightful meditation on the human condition but because it simply sounded too bizarre to miss.
Ali’s lived in the shadow of her older sister all her life, and she’s insecure. When she gets her wish from the fairies, she’s going to ask to be smarter. But as Ali slowly realizes that the fairies have an ulterior motive to their seeming benevolence, she realizes that she’s not as dumb as she thought. When the kids get their fairies, they’re also given a magical parchment that will answer questions about the flock, but Ali is the first child who thinks to test the limits of the parchment’s answers and find out what happened to the other kids (children who don’t succeed in raising their flock tend to mysteriously disappear) and the true identity of the fairies. By the end of the book, she’s gained confidence in herself and her intelligence. Her wish has come true – just not by fairy magic.
The book has some very strange, dark moments. When one girl gets captured by the fairies, her entire family forgets about her. No, that’s not true – their memories are altered so that they believe she’s off at a boarding school, living out her dreams. The only people who remember the girl are the kids who have had contact with the fairy world. In fact, this becomes the fate of all the kids who disappear – they are completely forgotten.
These are not your pretty Disney Pixie Hollow fairies. These fairies are obsessed with punishing children, and only reluctantly mete out rewards because they must to maintain balance in the world. Their leader Bunny is an aggressive, thoughtless leader who dreams up grand schemes for her people that often land them in more trouble than they were in before. And always, there’s that strange obsession with hair. See, the fairies eat hair – it tastes like amazing candy to them. If the children aren’t careful to bind up their hair in a tight bun (girls) or shave their heads (boys) the fairies will eat it right off their heads.
But it’s a fun story - a cute middle-level fantasy for upper elementary school students. It reminds me a bit of those old Bruce Coville and R. L. Stine books I read as a kid, the Magic Shop and Goosebumps series.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Bookish TV Shows Coming This Fall
2012: The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner
2011: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
2010: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
2009: The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
2008: The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner