Fairies of Nutfolk Wood
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Fairies of Nutfolk Wood

4.7 10
by Barb Bentler Ullman

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Welcome to
Nutfolk Wood
population 52

In the country town of Plunkit, where Willa and her mom start anew after her parents' divorce, Willa catches sight of a strange sparkle by the creek and in the old woods. Her older-than-old neighbor, Hazel Wicket, has an amusing story about these surroundings and an imagined family


Welcome to
Nutfolk Wood
population 52

In the country town of Plunkit, where Willa and her mom start anew after her parents' divorce, Willa catches sight of a strange sparkle by the creek and in the old woods. Her older-than-old neighbor, Hazel Wicket, has an amusing story about these surroundings and an imagined family of tiny people that inhabit a tree stump. Willa knows there's no such thing as fairies, but when she spots more and more oddities around her, she can't stop an itchy feeling that there's some certainty to Hazel's curious tales of the Nutfolk.

Barb Bentler Ullman's fine first novel shares a special magic — behind which hard truth and hidden wisdom await discovery.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
Willa Jane's parents have just divorced and as a result, Willa is suffering mentally and physically. She and her mother decide to move to Plunkit, a small town in the country. Willa has the suspicion that some of her choices may be guided by small figures that appear only to her, but wonders if this is just a result of the divorce. As Willa and her mother work to fix up the trailer that they buy, they meet their next door neighbor, Hazel. Hazel is one of Plunkit's oldest and most respected residents with many stories to tell. As Willa's health improves, she meets another friend and helper of Hazel's, Vincent Meeker. Willa comes more and more to terms with her parents' divorce and tries to figure out if there's any truth to Hazel's stories about the fairies that live in the Nutfolk Wood. It is difficult to tell what role the fairies play in this story--a problem with this first novel from Barb Ullman. This story has a nice premise of a middle school child trying to cope with a parents' divorce during the months that he/she is not in school. Nevertheless, the role of the fairy folk weakens the novel's strength in showing how Willa copes with this traumatic change. The novel could also use better chapter headings: a chapter heading needs to feel less like a tacked on, eye-catching phrase and more like it plays a important role in the story. The fairy folk do not really play that important a role; it is the friendship between Hazel and Willa that does. Why not evolve this relationship and her role in Plunkit instead of having some rather hackneyed fairy folk do it?
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-After her parents' divorce, Willa and her mother move into a run-down trailer in the country, near Willa's Uncle Andrew. The 10-year-old keeps her mind off her dad's absence by helping out at her elderly neighbor Hazel's while her mom is at work, but whenever she goes near the woods, she is plagued by sparkly visions of tiny houses and people. These images mesh with tales that Hazel tells her of a community of woodland fairies who live in and around an old tree stump, and after a scary incident involving a neighbor and his dirt bike, Willa meets the Nutfolk. This story is a bit unsatisfying as a fantasy; most of the information about the Nutfolk comes secondhand, from Hazel's stories. Willa has minimal interactions with the fairies, and even those come late in the book. A "mystery" regarding some lost paintings falls rather flat. More satisfying are Willa's friendships with old Hazel and with a local boy named Vincent, and her efforts to deal with her parents' divorce. The pacing is slow and the dialogue can be a bit folksy ("gee" and "heck"), but there are enough satisfying moments to hold readers.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Willa, nine, narrates events of a post-divorce summer in this poorly edited first novel. Mama uses settlement money for acreage in the country, and they renovate an old trailer. When she takes a job at the used bookstore, Mama trades Willa's chore duty for the TLC of elderly neighbor Hazel. As their rustic routines develop, Hazel spins tales of the tiny, vaguely matriarchal Nutfolk. Her details echo Willa's own previous sightings of a tree-stump settlement and shimmering fairy auras. Enlisting the help of a neighbor boy, Willa tries to prove that the Nutfolk exist. Ullman has not yet mastered unreliable narration, yielding at times to authorial insight and too many adverbs. "I suspected that the main thing Vincent Meeker and I had in common was the struggle to get over our sorrows." Insensitivities crop up, too. Hazel describes Nutfolk's fancier clothing as having "a hint of American Indian in the styling," and the fairies possess a "golden brown complexion with tilted, almond eyes." Human problems and solutions overwhelm the tenuous fairy lore, despite some sweet imagery and deft characterization. A more rigorous edit might have turned the occasional glimmers into a steady glow. (Fiction. 8-10)
ALA Booklist (starred review)
“A convincing first-person narrative with the wholesome appeal of fresh-baked bread.”
ALA Booklist
"A convincing first-person narrative with the wholesome appeal of fresh-baked bread."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood

By Barb Ullman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Barb Ullman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060736143

Chapter One

Stepping into the Tornado

"Change is like a storm," Mama said gently. ,"It's all windy and upsetting, but the sun has to come out eventually." She kissed my forehead and tried to smooth down my hair.

Grandma Cookie must have been eavesdropping from the dining room because she poked her head in and added sarcastically, "Maybe if 'Mrs. unfulfilled' hadn't up and left her husband there wouldn't be any changes."

"Oh, Ma, for Pete's sake, give it a rest," Mama snapped. "I told you it was a mutual decision."

This led to some general bickering, which I tried to ignore as background noise, hearing it without listening.

I stared out the window of Grandma's front room and saw myself in the dusky glass. I didn't hardly recognize the girl in the window. She looked all scrawny and pinched, a little like Grandma Cookie.

Other kids had parents who'd gone through divorce. I don't know why I turned into such a basket case. I guess because if there is one thing I hate, it's change.

Change caused the storm in my dream that night. My worries and fears whipped into a cyclone, whirling around all of this stuff -- the divorce, our house being sold, Daddy leaving, me feeling sick all the time. The dark funnel movedforward, creeping ever closer to Grandma's house.

I watched from her porch, petrified and filled with dread. When I tried to yell, all that came out was a whisper. Daddy appeared, and came running to save me, but the tornado grabbed him.

"Daddy!" I called. "Come back!" But just like that, he was gone.

Mama came out on the porch with her knitting. She said, "I've had it with this turmoil!" All of a sudden, the tornado sucked up her basket, and Mama jumped right in after it.

Grandma was in the living room screeching, "Hide in the basement!" I wanted to hide like anything, but I didn't want to stay with Grandma. I was afraid of the storm, but I couldn't stay put. Following Mama, I stepped into the tornado.

Up I went, twisting and swirling. I was afraid to go up and I was afraid to go down. My legs felt like rubber and my stomach flapped into my throat. I'd fling into something and be killed for sure. But I gained control, and found I could fly.

I swerved right out of that tornado and decided I'd fly to the mountains. I was convinced that if I could just get to the woods, everything would slow down. Everything would be safe and lovely, like all the picnics, and summer swims, and autumn walks at my uncle's mountain farm.

I flew to a spot in the woods where the ground seemed to shimmer and play tricks with the light. The plants were soft and close, the air smelled like warm pitch, and I wasn't scared anymore.

A small voice said, "Here is peace and courage, Willa Jane."

"Who's there?" I asked.

"Win some, lose some," the little voice said, giggling.

"Win some what?"

Ignoring my question, the child said, "We're country girls, you and I, no doubt."

The voice faded and was gone with the dream.

I woke in the hushed darkness of Grandma Cookie's spare bedroom. Mama slept in the other single bed, not three feet away.

"Mama," I whispered.

She answered immediately, "Waddya need, Wil?"

"I want to go to the country," I said.

"What country is that?"

"The countryside. Like trees and mountains and fresh air. Like at Uncle Andrew's. Could we do that, Mama?"

"Sounds like a good plan, Sweet Pea."

We had been staying at Grandma Cookie's while the divorce went through and the house got sold. Daddy had left for California. He'd moved in with Uncle Jackson and Aunt Lena, and my perfect cousins, Rudy and Zack, who looked like models and had gobs of friends. Unlike me.

My best friend, Etta Myers, moved away last summer right before all the divorce talk. I wrote Etta long letters, but once she got settled, she wrote back less and less. Then I sort of lost interest in drumming up new friends. I knew I ought to try, but it seemed like so much work.

Daddy left after Christmas and it burned me up that he was leaving me to go stay with the perfect cousins. He wanted to go back to college, "to do something meaningful with his life." I guess that being my daddy wasn't meaningful enough.

Ever since then, Grandma Cookie made it her job to lecture Mama on the evils of divorce at every opportunity. "Blah-blah, you married too young. Blab-blab, the first divorce in the family. Yackety-yak, what kind of wife just gives up?"

Mama argued back, but it was pointless because Grandma Cookie had no intention of altering her opinion on anything, ever. I listened to it all, and it drove me crazy. My stomach was always churning and I forgot what normal felt like.

After missing a million days of school, Mama and my fourth-grade teacher, the principal, and the school psychologist all agreed to a home-school situation. What I needed was "security and consistency."

When we were alone, Mama said, "You don't have to think about school unless you want to think about school. Your studies can wait until you're back on your feet." She said it with conviction. But she looked around nervously, as if truant officers or school security could be skulking in Grandma's closets.

When Mama finally got her money out of the house settlement, she announced that we had overstayed our welcome at Grandma Cookie's. "It's time to get out of Dodge," she said.

"It's way past that time," I responded grimly.

She lowered her voice and confided, "It's all settled. We're going to Uncle Andrew's. I'll tell Grandma tonight."

The next day, in the dim light of early morning, we fled the city. With a twinkle in her eye, Mama noisily revved the Honda and squealed away from the curb, speeding down the block without a backward glance.

I looked back. Grandma Cookie watched from the porch and waved good-bye, looking bummed out that she had no one left to scold.


Excerpted from The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood by Barb Ullman Copyright © 2006 by Barb Ullman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Barb Bentler Ullman is the author of the highly praised The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood. She lives with her family—husband Jim, two daughters, and a vicious kitty named Apricot—in a house that her husband built in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. "My daughter Sara once came up with the idea for an American woodland fairy. She was glue-gunning acorns together and calling them ‘nut babies.' They resided in pretty places in our woods, living quiet, natural lives. One thing led to another."

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Fairies of Nutfolk Wood 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My class of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders loved it! They identify with the anguish the main character, Willa, goes through with her parent's divorce and subsequent move to a new area. There is just the right amount of mysticism and fantasy added to reality for the 8-11 year olds I teach. They discuss among themselves possible outcomes, motives, and endings, and how the characters grow throughout the book. It is thought-provoking and has provided a good springboard to classroom discussions about how the characters each handle disappointment that comes their way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iloveagoodbook More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I'm a big fan of fairies and fantasy and this book had a very earthy feel from the moment I saw the cover. And I knew I had to read it. Good thing I did because I love it! Such a wonderful story, and you felt like you were apart of it. Also gives you this magical feeling while reading. Great book, and great story!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorites, and it it is one of the best books ever!!! It's not about fairies at all, but another kind of race... but you'll have to read the book to find out! These creatures help the main character in the story deal with hardships, and give her courage and hope.Overall,this book is one of the best ones in the entire universe... So READ it! Trust me, it is great!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is really good! i really liked the detail and all about fairies. it would be sooo cool if the fairies were real. hazel is so nice! i wish she wuld write another series about willa and her adventures with the fairies of nutfolk wood. i would definitley read them because they are so magical and fun!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think it is an OUTSTANDING book! I like it because you never know what's going to happen next. This book is about faries and I like faries. This book helps me use my imagination.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the imagination the story had and the story of standing up for what you believe in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First of all, now that I have read The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood I wish I had some older children to share this with! We all love fairies at my house. Call me nuts, but we even have a little lantern outside the front door that I tell the boys is there to 'light the fairie's way'... and they believe me! But aside from that, my boys are 3 and 5, and they would not understand the sophistocated themes in this book that MANY older children can (My parents split up when I was 9 and this would have been a perfect gift for me back then). I laughed and cried through this book. It's appropriate for ANYONE 8 and over, and especially for children going through the shock of change, either death or divorce. I literally read this in one day because I couldn't put it down. What an excellent book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Readers will enjoy the easy pace which encourages page-turning as the story's heroine, Willa, unravels the mystery of whether or not magic exists in her woods. Willa's world has totally turned upside down with her parents' divorce, then relocation with her mother. Dealing with emerging fears and feelings, Willa finds new friends (perhaps more than she knows about) who help her find her place in the world once again. This book is a wonderful instrument to use as a conversation starter for topics such as divorce, friendship, coming-of-age issues and recognizing that senior citizens offer valuable gifts of wisdom if youngsters take the time to pay attention. As someone who usually sticks to non-fantasy fiction, the author's suggestion and exploration of magical fairies allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. I highly recommend this book for both kids and adults alike!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book and I loved it! I¿m twelve, and even though this book is about fairies, I still enjoyed it. Actually, it¿s more about divorce and finding friendship than it is about the Nutfolk fairies. I thought this was a good start for an aspiring author, and it really captured me once I started to read. I especially liked the mystery part, with Willa not being able to find ¿proof positive.¿ The shimmer of auras was very creative also. Another review (the ONLY bad one!), said that the ¿occasional shimmers¿ of the fairies should have been a steady glow. I say, where¿s the mystery if there are no shimmers? In the sequel I would like to see more of the fairies though. I think the story should be geared towards them, and maybe that Hazel wicket discovers them or something. Anyways, I think the title could have been better, but all in all, the book was fantastic!