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Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher
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Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher

5.0 1
by Ruth Ellwand, David Ellwand

From the creator of FAIRIE-ALITY, an eerie tale-within-a-tale weaves stunning photographs into a thrilling, time-shifting mystery that leaves readers questioning what is real.

Some say the English Downs are haunted by fairy creatures — and that those who find a flint stone with a hole through it can look into the fairies' realm. It is just such a


From the creator of FAIRIE-ALITY, an eerie tale-within-a-tale weaves stunning photographs into a thrilling, time-shifting mystery that leaves readers questioning what is real.

Some say the English Downs are haunted by fairy creatures — and that those who find a flint stone with a hole through it can look into the fairies' realm. It is just such a stone that leads photographer David Ellwand on a dark journey to the past, one that starts with a musty wooden chest and a nineteenth-century journal and ends with a disappearance as sudden as a vintage camera's flash. In this journal-within-a-journal, illustrated by Ellwand's exquisite photographs, lies a tale of archaeologists and fairies, human hubris and otherworldly revenge, the magic of the natural world and the mystery of the imagination.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Timothy Capehart
British photographer Ellwand injects himself into a piece of faux-nonfiction that deals with faeries and, not surprisingly, photography. While out walking the South Downs, he finds the ruin of a house in which he discovers a locked trunk. Unable to resist, he takes the trunk home and pries it open. Inside are the journals, photographs, recordings, and creations of nineteenth-century photographer Isaac Wilde. The volume switches from Ellwand's journal entries to a transcription of a recording made by Wilde. Wilde recounts his part in an archaeological dig in the area. Having had some success as a photographer, Wilde meets Dr. Gibson Gayle and signs on to document the doctor's excavation of Barrow Hill. While covering the dig, Wilde finds he can see into the world of "pixies" by looking through flints with natural holes in them. He tries to photograph the spirits. Even after he is successful, no one will believe him. The destructive, non-believing Dr. Gayle, vanishes when he manipulates a pixie construct; Wilde hides the device, but his journal ends there. Ellwand reconstructs the device and "Once you've looked through the vanisher, it's never the same.o Ellwand's (and Wilde's) spooky sepia photographs and the "documentation" of the artifacts will appeal to fans of Ellwand's Fairie-ality (Candlewick, 2002/VOYA August 2003). This gentle "Spiderwicke meets the Blair Witch" tale is worth the time, but it will take pushing to get it checked out to young teens who are interested in things faerie. Reviewer: Timothy Capehart
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
For the teller of fairy tales—not fluffy, Disney-type stories, but real fairy lore—this is a top-notch work. David and Ruth Ellwand weave a fantastical adventure mystery featuring a photograph journal of the mid to late nineteenth century that is set in mysterious central southern England. Careful detail is presented in what seems to be an attempt to document the life and activities of pixies, sprites and elves, collectively referred to as "fae." We begin with the discovery of a wooden chest near an abandoned house. Inside it is a seeming treasure trove of realia, with no particular rhyme, reason, or apparent value. That is, until it is viewed in conjunction with the journal of one Isaac Wilde, which serves as the centerpiece of the book. The journal is presented as an exact transcription of his days amidst the fairies, observing them. What a marvelous essay this is, as it reads with great authority and authenticity. The diary's story includes elements of camaraderie and support, as well as deception and treachery! As the titles suggests, one person vanishes—but whom? Curious-minded youth must read this work to find out if the vanisher is man or pixie. Such thrills! As easy as this is to read as a narrative, and in spite of its fictional nature, this book also serves as something of a history of photography. The techniques mentioned and examples shown are authentic, and are sure to delight the folklorist, archivist and historian in us all. This is a superb book for the images alone, as well as the story. Hopefully, this will lead to more photographic mysteries and "exposures." Reviewer: Elizabeth Young
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up

Ethereal, sepia-toned photos meld with folklore elements to create an evocative glimpse at the indiscernible boundary between reality and fantasy. In journal format, photographer David Ellwand employs descriptive text and eerily beautiful images to describe his rambles in the English Downs and his discovery of an ancient flint stone. Looking through the hole worn into this "devil eye," he sees a ball of light and follows it to a tumbledown house, where he finds an antique chest containing some unusual relics and an old phonograph recording. Part Two, also illustrated with photos, presents the transcript of this recording made in 1889 by Isaac Wilde, a photographer hired by Dr. Gibson Gayle to document the excavation of a Neolithic flint mine. Though the site is rumored to be haunted by fairies, the arrogant archaeologist intends to quell all superstition through "the faithful transcription of objective reality." The strange events that transpire at Pixhole evoke mystery and suspense, as the "world of reason" collides with "the hidden life of the natural world." Throughout, verbal and visual images are perfectly intertwined to create a magic-infused mood and propel the plot. Whether landscape pictures of gnarled tree roots or close-ups of "artifacts" (e.g., a delicate suit of armor made from oyster and mussel shells), the photos are effective and eye-catching. This intriguing, perhaps slightly unsettling tale can inspire discussion about perception and different ways of seeing.-Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews
Beautiful photographs are juxtaposed against subtly quiet text in this unusual fantasy. While rambling on the Downs, the narrator discovers a chest containing documents of a strange occurrence. The chest belonged to an Isaac Wilde: a photographer who, after taking employment on an archaeological site, stumbles upon the fairy world after the dig disrupts their mound. He sets out-and manages-successfully to photograph a fairy but, to his chagrin, he is mocked by his employer and peers and is then accused of presenting a forgery. After giving Wilde a ruthless taunting, his boss mysteriously vanishes, and only Wilde-and now the readers-knows the ultimate truth behind his disappearance. An open-ended conclusion and a collection of "evidence" leave readers to discern the characters' fates. A naturalistic slant to the photography helps make the fantasy concept plausible. Visually interesting, but the slow pace and vagueness may not hold the interest for some. However, fans of the fairy realm will most likely be enchanted by this subdued tale. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.76(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.65(d)
1020L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

David Ellwand, creator of the internationally renowned FAIRIE-ALITY, CINDERLILY, and many other acclaimed books, is a photographer, artist, and printmaker whose home in West Sussex, England, is located very near the mysterious happenings in this book.

Ruth Ellwand, a children's publishing specialist, previously collaborated with her husband, David, on MIDAS MOUSE. She lives with him in West Sussex, England.

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Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
David Ellwand has always been fascinated by the Downs. This rolling landscape of open plains and beech trees, with its legends about faeries and other fantastic creatures, has always excited him. He never quite believes in the legends, but one day he discovers a flint stone with a hole naturally worn through the center, a stone which, when looked through, will allow him to see the creatures around him that cannot be perceived by the naked eye. One day, he follows a will-o'-the-wisp to the ruins of an old house near some flint mines, where he discovers a padlocked chest in an outhouse. He brings the box back to his studio, pries it open, and begins to document the contents. Within, he finds old phonograph records, which he decodes to discover the secret of the objects inside the box.

The middle of the book is a transcript of the phonograph recordings, detailing the discoveries of Isaac Wilde, a photographer from the 1880s. The recordings explain that the contents of the box were collected by Wilde over the course of a mining expedition in the Downs in 1889. Wilde was supposed to be present to photographically document the scene, but as he hears from the residents of the area about the strange goings on and the myths of faeries, he decides to find out for himself if they are really true. He searches for clues of the faeries' existence, and eventually works to create a camera that could capture their images.

Both the frame narrative of Ellwand's discovery of the box and Wilde's narrative about his experiences in the mines are accompanied by haunting images of the Downs and of the contents of the box. The photographs range in style from color prints to black-and-white to reproductions of older styles of photography, like silver-gelatin prints and daguerreotypes. This is no picture book--the images enhance the story in new and different ways. The book's layout and formatting are visually pleasing, and meant to attract the attention of the eye. The realism of the photographic illustrations helps heighten the sense of wonder at the finished product, and leads one to question if this account is fact or fiction.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book--I read it in one sitting! The writing itself was clear and occasionally wistful, detailing Ellwand's fascination with the English Downs and exploring the intersection of the worlds of science and fantasy at which Isaac Wilde finds himself. A wonderful "picture book" for adults!