Fairies of Nutfolk Wood
  • Fairies of Nutfolk Wood
  • Fairies of Nutfolk Wood

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

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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 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."

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Outdoor Adventures (Katherine Tegen Books) Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.51(d)
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.

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