Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (2005) is another book that I might not love. But no one can say the girls here aren’t super cool and resourceful, which is why it’s a CLW review. I just wish I could say the same for the book.
Gail Carson Levine, author of the insanely awesome novel Ella Enchanted, always thought that Wendy was crazy for going home when she could have stayed with Peter Pan in Neverland. At least that’s what her mini-bio on the dust jacket of her new novel says. Levine also dedicates the book to her first boyfriend, Peter Pan.
One of Disney’s newest marketing ventures is Disney Fairies, which is promoting Tinker Bell and the other characters found in Levine’s novel among other fairies. (There’s also a series of Fairy books for younger readers and a CGI film, not directly related to the events relayed in Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, which is due out this fall on Disney DVD. If you want to learn more, the Disney Fairies have their own website–but be advised it might take a bit to load on slower computers.) When I first heard about this new project, I was intrigued since I am a fan of fairies. At the same time, I was a bit worried. There’s something very commercial, and even counterintuitive, about a writer creating a story with characters that have already been dealt with by other authors (and a lot of movies!). Still, I decided to give it a try.
Before even getting into the story, though, I have to say that this novel is quite beautiful. The actual book is made of high quality paper to accommodate the illustrations that often feature as tw-page spreads throughout the novel. These pictures, watercolors painted by David Christiana, are stunning. The colors are subtle and really the skill is just so obvious in all of the drawings that viewing them is a joy. Christiana manages to stay true to the original Disney vision for Tinker Bell while making her “look” slightly new and different to better fit in with the other fairies.
Unfortunately, it takes more than great illustrations to sustain a good book. The basic plot stays pretty true to some of the elements found in the original story of Peter Pan. The book starts when a baby laughs (every time a baby laughs for the first time, a fairy is born). This fairy, named Prilla, is special. Not only is she going to be a Never Fairy in Neverland, she is also unlike any fairy the island has seen before. Prilla says “please” and “thank you” like humans (called “Clumsies” by fairies). She even curtsies and apologizes. Stranger still, Prilla is able to move between Neverland and the dreams of Clumsy children.
Every Fairy in Neverland has a special talent (water, baking, pots and pans, etc.)–every fairy except for Prilla. However, when a storm strikes the island injuring Mother Dove (the source of the Fairy Dust that allows Never Fairies to work their magic) Prilla doesn’t have much time to worry about not having a talent as she and two other fairies are sent out to try and find a way to heal Mother Dove.
I had several problems with the story. The idea of each fairy having a talent, while superficially cute, has deeper problems upon further investigation. It just feels too much like each fairy having a clique and, even worse, the story spends a lot of time focusing on Prilla being special in a bad way for not having a talent. This issue is resolved by the end of the story, but it just seems like a bad message to send to children. (And what’s up with the name Prilla? Seriously.)
The narrative of the story also started to grate very near the beginning of the book. I haven’t read J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan so I don’t know if Levine was trying emulate his style or not–I think she was but need to investigate further–but it just didn’t work. Frankly, it sounded like Levine was writing in a style that was not her own and with which she was not entirely comfortable.
Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg also seemed to be having an identity crisis. The book looks like a novel for older children. The print is small and there is a lot of it. But the story sometimes sounds like it was written for much younger children with prose that lacks the dimension and depth of books for an older audience. At the same time, though, the events of the novel (a fairy cutting off her own wings, a dying dove, among other problematic events) suggest that it’s more appropriate for an older audience.
The best parts of this novel were when Levine was looking at the characters originally found in Peter Pan. Her descriptions of the mermaids, and of Tinker Bell’s relationship with Peter were really enjoyable. Captain Hook also features in the plot and was awesome. Unfortunately all of these events take only about ten pages combined (the book is 208).
This book has a lot going for it and I wanted to like it more than I did, but all of the great pieces never come together (with the mediocre ones) to create a solid, enjoyable whole.