A fairy tale in which the fairies get fired, MacDonald's take on a Scottish-Irish folktale starts with an old woman who hates housework. A voice from outside calls ("Your luck has come! Open the door! / Let me in and you'll work no more!"), and soon several fairies have taken over her house, doing all the chores to which the old woman has grown accustomed. When she yells "Fairies STOP!" because they're so "rackety," they proceed to take apart all they have done, so that they can start all over again. The sound effects—from "clankety clankety" to "swishety swishety"—make this a fun read-aloud, and Mitchell's full-of-green pictures are engaging domestic scenes with a little fairy dust thrown in. The tale ends with the old woman luring the sprites outside and incapacitating household objects so that they can't help the fairies back in. As the knitting needles say, "We're stuck in the yarn; we cannot get out!" The last page features the happy old woman alone with her chores.
- Mary Hynes-Berry
Margaret Read McDonald is much more than the world's expert on folklore for children—she is a great storyteller. This Irish tale features an old woman who is tired of doing all her household chores; she rejoices to welcome a horde of fairies who show up one day and dive into making the house spick and span. Unfortunately, once the house is clean, the compulsively busy fairies mess everything up so they can go back to cleaning. The old woman soon finds their help much worse than doing all the chores herself. Thanks to the advice of a local wise woman about how to get rid of them, she learns a valuable lesson: we should be careful what we wish for. McDonald includes all kinds of wonderful sound effect words—swishety, flumpety, clickety—a great fun-for-the-tongue way to develop phonemic awareness. Mitchell's cheerful, bright colored illustrations add to the delights of this tale. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—An old woman grumbles, "Work! Work! Work! How I hate it! Hate it! Hate it!" Her complaining soon brings four fairies to her door to perform her chores—washing dishes, sweeping, making the bed, and knitting. But all of the help still can't stop her from complaining about all the noise the fairies are making: "clankety, clankety," "swishety, swishety," "lumpety, flumpety," and "clickety clickety." "These fairies are driving me crazy!" she laments. But when she tells them to stop, they begin to reverse all of their chores, tearing everything apart. A visit to the village wise one teaches the complaining old woman a lesson about being content with her own situation. This Scottish folktale is subtle but effective in its message of humility. The illustrations are folksy and warm with amusing detail. Notable are the old woman's pointed shoes, the fairies' woodland-creature apparel, and the animation of ordinary household items. A fun read-aloud.—C. J. Connor, Campbell County Public Library, Cold Spring, KY
The magic in this Celtic cognate to "It Could Always Be Worse," summoned by an old woman's complaints about her housework, comes in the shape of crazy-cleaning fairies, who, as soon as they have washed the dishes, swept the floor, made the bed and done the knitting, undo all their work so they can start again. The village wise woman gives the old woman the right advice to both get rid of the fairies and stop her complaints. Using strong construction and repetition in all the right places, the simple text is so artfully composed that it is ready-made for retelling, from the old woman's cantankerous "Work! Work! Work! How I hate it! Hate it! Hate it!" to the onomatopoeic clankety, swishety, flumpety and clickety noises made by the fairies gone berserk. Mitchell's watercolors reflect the text too sweetly, without enough visual clues to make the cute gossamer-winged, roly-poly mischief-makers convincing nuisances, and even the crotchety old woman doesn't look very crotchety. Taken alone, master storyteller MacDonald's work shines. (Picture book/folklore. 4-6)