Throughout history and across cultures, people's imaginations have often been ignited by the idea that the earth is populated by "little people." Steve Augarde builds on this intriguing idea in this first novel of what promises to be an exciting trilogy. Eleven-year-old Midge, whose mother is a professional musician, leaves her for the summer in the care of her uncle, who lives on an old farmstead in the English country. What had promised to be a very boring summer was suddenly enlivened when Midge discovered a small, wounded horse. The story shifts back and forth between Midge's adventure with the horse and the struggles of the five tribes of little people called "The Various." Eventually, of course, the two stories come together as the Various fight for their survival in the land of the "Gorgi," which is their word for the human giants who are taking more and more of their land. Augarde is a professional educator who has written over seventy children's books and who has produced artwork and music for two BBC children's series. He brings to his writing a keen understanding of the thinking, joys and fears of children, making this story one that will be hard to put down! The only disadvantage is that we have to wait for the sequels. 2004, David Fickling Books/Random House, Ages 10 to 14.
Kathy Egner, Ph.D.
This first story in a planned trilogy, a Nestle Smarties prizewinner, harks back to the classic fairy stories collected by Andrew Lang, with a bit of Natalie Babbitt's characters in the beautiful, wild Somerset Levels. Twelve-year-old Midge's glamorous mother is on tour with the orchestra, and Midge must make the best of staying with Mum's brother on the family farm. Exploring the deep woods nearby, Midge makes a startling discovery-five tribes of "little people, fairies," whose secret existence has always been threatened by humans, or "Gorji." But if Uncle Brian follows through on his plan to sell the land, they might be destroyed for good. A marvelous blend of old-fashioned storytelling, the book has a freshness and immediacy that will intrigue fantasy lovers of all ages. Readers will sympathize with the sad and dumpy little fairy queen, cheer the fragile and gutsy winged horse, and root for the star-crossed small lovers as they wonder how Midge and her cousins will save the Various, when the tribes seem determined to work against their own best interests. Augarde, who has illustrated more than seventy picture books and animated several BBC series, should garner a built-in audience for the next books. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, David Fickling Books/Random House, 448p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 5-7-In this inventive and unusual fantasy, Midge, 11, is staying on her uncle's farm while her violinist mother is on tour. She is drawn into a disused barn by the "sound" of words inside her head-the voice of a small winged horse, one of the fairy folk, or "the Various," as they call themselves. She becomes involved in their dramas and adventures as she tries to ensure that their Forest, which her uncle plans to sell to a developer, remains safe for them to live in. Augarde's fairies are very much of this world: concrete and well realized in all of their physical details, down to their tattered clothes made from scraps of fabric. The climactic scene is exciting, and the one in which one of the Various shoots an arrow into the gigantic and fierce farmyard cat and kills it is powerfully visceral. There is an air of contrivance in the story's resolution, however, as it is through events in the adult world of Midge's family that the Forest is saved. This is somewhat anticlimactic, as the efforts of the Various to save themselves turn out to have been unnecessary. Midge's character is clearly delineated, but other human characters are less well developed. The strength of the novel lies in the sense of atmosphere, and the portrayal of the fairy characters, particularly Pegs, the winged horse. There are plot elements that do not come to fruition, which might indicate that a sequel is planned.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A Nesbit-style fairy adventure made dark awaits Midge, the only child of her single mother, a musician. Midge has to stay with batty Uncle Brian while her mother goes on tour. Though she's furious at coming second with her mum, Midge loves Brian's farmhouse, especially when she finds Pegs, an injured winged horse, in an abandoned farm building. As Midge nurses Pegs back to health, he tells her of his people, the elflike Various, who live in Brian's forest. But Brian plans to sell the forest to developers. Midge and Pegs break ancient taboos and bring her into the enchanted wood to warn the other Various. The Various, conflicted by their own internal politics and bigotry, can't act effectively. After a slow-moving start, through an impenetrably dense thicket of pseudo-Victorian language, Augarde's story finally picks up to a suspenseful if incomplete conclusion. (Fiction. 10-13)
A rousing addition to the durable genre of British fairy lit.”—New York Times
“Augarde unfolds the events gradually, allowing readers to luxuriate in the near-idyllic setting he has created and beckoning them back for future installments.”—Publishers Weekly