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The Gold Dust Letters

The Gold Dust Letters

by Janet Taylor Lisle

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While searching for her fairy godmother, a young girl uncovers a world of magic

It starts with chocolates. Dreaming of a box of chocolates that never empties, Angela writes a letter to her fairy godmother asking for one. To her surprise, the fairy writes back! A letter appears on her mantelpiece from “Pilaria of the Kingdom of the Faeries,”


While searching for her fairy godmother, a young girl uncovers a world of magic

It starts with chocolates. Dreaming of a box of chocolates that never empties, Angela writes a letter to her fairy godmother asking for one. To her surprise, the fairy writes back! A letter appears on her mantelpiece from “Pilaria of the Kingdom of the Faeries,” written on ancient parchment with purple ink, and covered in a gold dust that vanishes as soon as it flies into the air. Is this really a letter from the land of magic? And if so, what does it mean? Angela and her two best friends begin investigating the mystery, searching Angela’s house for clues. But out of the blue, more letters appear on Angela’s mantelpiece. Pilaria is lonesome, and as curious about the girls’ world as they are about her kingdom. What they learn from their correspondence with this enchanting godmother will change everything they know—about magic and reality—forever. This ebook features a personal history by Janet Taylor Lisle including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s own collection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Lisle celebrates the imagination's power to help ease wounds," said PW in a starred review of this "heartwarming" and "wrenching" tale, about a girl who corresponds with her fairy godmother. Ages 8-12. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Angela, nine, is astonished when she receives a reply to the note she has left on the fireplace mantle addressed to her fairy godmother. She is able to find some relief from family tensions as her two best friends, a believer and a skeptic, join in her investigation of the mysterious rolled messages, written in purple calligraphy, that scatter a fine golden dust each time they are unrolled. As in Afternoon of the Elves (Orchard, 1989), Lisle successfully blends fantasy and reality to explore a problem situation. Although the resolution is not a happy one, it is credible and still allows readers to maintain a fleeting belief in the fairy. The engaging narrative presents unique characters with striking clarity and depth, while setting and events are sketched with enough detail to draw readers in and to spark their imaginations to create their own vivid visual images. A multifaceted novel to be appreciated on many levels.-Starr LaTronica, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Ilene Cooper
With an unusual blending of fantasy and reality, Lisle tells the story of Angela, who, much to her surprise, begins receiving letters covered in gold dust from a gray-eyed fairy, Pilaria. Angela's friends, Georgina and Poco, are skeptical but become believers when they see a golden light shimmering in Angela's living room. These magical goings-on are set against a backdrop of family discord. Angela's crusty father, to whom she's not close at all, and her mother seem on the verge of breaking up. So it's doubly surprising when Angela's father is revealed as Pilaria. He has written the letters and used a candle carousel to make the twinkling light, and he even metamorphoses part of the house into a fairy lair as a way to reconcile with Angela. As always, Lisle writes with the graciousness and charm that are the hallmark of her talent. This story has plenty of child appeal, and though there are some unraveled threads (Could Angela's father really have transformed the kitchen in the middle of the night and put it back together in the morning without anyone noticing?), the loosest thread is deliberate and welcome. Where did the gold dust come from that spilled from Pilaria's letters? Angela's father admits to everything but that. So Angela and her friends decide to become Investigators of the Unknown and discover more of the mysteries in everyday life--of which there will no doubt be many.

Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Publication date:
Investigators of the Unknown , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
7 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Angela Harrall took an interest in magic. Not the silly hocus-pocus of birthday party magicians, or the dumb card tricks her older brother was always playing on her. Angela wasn't a stupid per-son. But the real magic that is present at unexplainable happenings, the power that haunts a house or works quietly behind the scenes in secret, hidden worlds -- oh yes, Angela adored that sort of thing. She was a believer in the unknown, and that was why she wrote her crazy letter in the first place.

Georgina, Rusk wouldn't have done it. She believed in the unknown, too, more or less, but not in writing to it. And little Poco Lambert, well ... she was an animal-lover who spoke mostly to pets.

"I can't believe you actually wrote to her," Georgina said irritably, on the Saturday morning that Angela's mysterious answer appeared. "I mean it's so ridiculous, writing a letter to your fairy godmother. Nobody bothers with that stuff anymore."

The three friends were at the Rusks' house, lounging on their big back lawn. The day was a warm one, one of those early October beauties when summer takes a last wistful turn before giving up the stage to autumn's chill.

"Well, I bothered with it, and I got an answer back," Angela replied. "It was on the mantelpiece in the living room when I came downstairs' for breakfast this morning."

"So? Anybody could have written a letter and put it there. In case you've forgotten, three other people five in your house: your mother, your brother, and your father."

"And your Siamese cat," Poco said sweetly to Angela. "Don't forget her."

"Her cat!" exclaimed Georgina. "Good grief!"

"Siamese catsare very talented," Poco went on. "People don't yet know all the things they can do."

Georgina rolled her eyes. "AH right, where is this fantastic letter?" she asked Angela. "You said you were going to show us, and you didn't even bring it with you."

"Yes I did."

"Well, where is it? I suppose you're going to tell us it's invisible. It's from one of those fairy godmothers that only appear to people who believe in them. Like Tinkerbell. But if we clap our hands together really hard and fast, the magic will go to work and --"

"George, ssh!" said Poco. "Look!"

While Georgina was talking, Angela had reached into the cotton vest she was wearing and taken something out of an inside pocket. It was a piece of paper, rolled up, with a thin gold thread tied around the middle. She held the paper up triumphantly for them to see, and when she did, a very fine golden dust flew out of one end and fell to the grass in a shimmering stream.

"Wow!" exclaimed Poco, reaching out to the place in the grass where the dust had fallen. She tried to pick some up, but it had disappeared.

Georgina said nothing, but her eyes widened.

"That happens every time I go to open the letter!" Angela exclaimed. "I can never see where it comes from. Look, there's nothing inside.".

She unrolled the paper, which was thin but stiffer than ordinary paper. It made a crinkly sound as it came unfurled. Angela showed Pocoand Georgina the open letter. There wasn't a bit of gold dust on it anywhere. Strange-looking purple writing covered the page. The friends leaned forward together and read the following:

With great honor I present myself- Pilaria of the Kingdom of the Faeries, Eighth Tribe, Fourth Earth, Under the Sun-Star Aravan, May It Shine on Our Land Forever and Ever.


Your message has been received Unfortunately, boxes of chocolates like the one you requested have long been out of stock. A hundred years ago they were all the rage, but fashions change. The kingdom has not filled such an order in fifty or sixty years and no longer prepares them. We are sorry that we cannot grant your wish in this matter.

The Gray-Eyed Faerie,

"Good grief, Angela. What kind of chocolates did you ask for?" Georgina demanded, after she had read all the way through.

Angela blushed. She was a stocky child who was known for her excellent appetite. "Well . . . I read about a box of candy that could never be finished," she explained. "The girl in the story asked for one from her fairy godmother, and she got it. It was great. Whenever she put the cover back on, all the chocolates she'd eaten grew back again so she could start all over."

There was a long silence while everyone read the letter again. And again. The purple script was beautiful. It descended the page in marvelous loops and swirls and looked vaguely Chinese. Pilaria's signature was elegant beyond words.

"This was not done by a Siamese cat," Poco announced finally.

"No." Georgina tested the paper's thinness between two fingers. "It might be old airmail paper," she said doubtfully.

"It's too stiff," Angela said.

"I've never seen writing like this," Georgina said. "Or ink this color." She paused. "But the letter is stupid. Nobody would ever believe such baloney. 'Eighth Tribe, Fourth Earth, Under the Sun-Star Aravan.' I mean really!"

Angela looked at her angrily. She rolled the letter back up fast -- it seemed to want to roll up by itself anyway -- and slipped the circle of gold thread around it. She was preparing to put it back in her vest pocket when Georgina gasped. Poco sat forward, her eyes round with astonishment. "The gold dust!" she cried. "There it is again!"

A rather larger amount of dust had dropped out of the letter and was falling in a shining river toward the ground. But once there, the, stuff completely disappeared, just as it had the first time.

Angela shook her head helplessly. "That's what always happens," she said, tucking the amazing letter back into her inside pocket...

Meet the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle (b. 1947) is an author of children’s fiction. After growing up in Connecticut, Lisle graduated from Smith College and spent a year working for the volunteer group VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) before becoming a journalist. She found that she loved writing human interest and “slice of life” stories, and honed the skills for observation and dialogue that would later serve her in her fiction. Lisle took a fiction writing course in 1981, and then submitted a manuscript to Richard Jackson, a children’s book editor at Bradbury Press who was impressed with her storytelling. Working with Jackson, Lisle published her first novel, The Dancing Cats of Applesap, in 1984. Since then she has written more than a dozen books for young readers, including The Great Dimpole Oak (1987) and Afternoon of the Elves (1989), which won a Newbery Honor. Her most recent novel is Highway Cats (2008).     

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