"Beautiful photographs are juxtaposed against subtly quiet text in this unusual fantasy." — Kirkus Reviews
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.
About the Author
Ruth Ellwand, a children's publishing specialist, previously collaborated with her husband, David, on Midas Mouse. She lives with him in West Sussex, England.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In this book the author discovers a mysterious box that holds artifacts from and the diary of a man who claims to have discovered a way to see into an alternate world ¿ one inhabited by fairies and little people. The book is beautifully executed and the photographs are wonderfully atmospheric, but the ending is ultimately unsatisfying.
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!