Nothing brings back fond memories of childhood quicker than sitting down to read a good picture book—my shelves are lined with a hundred of them, including some of my well-worn Little Golden Books (remember The Poky Little Puppy?) and an original Signet Special edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas published in 1965. I loved Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins and illustrated by Eric Gurney, not only because it had a catchy beat, but because I could point at my brothers and recite the book’s well-known refrain: “Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum.” My brothers didn’t think it was that funny.
Because so much of my life’s foundation was built on picture books, I resolved early on to pass on my love of good stories illustrated with good art to my daughter, Hannah: I started out by reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit to her while she was still in the womb! So when I received Deanna K. Klingel’s book, Amanda and the Lazy Garden Fairy, published by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, I was excited for the both Hannah and me. Okay, I was excited for me.
Amanda and the Lazy Garden Fairy, illustrated by Steve Daniels, a former technical illustrator for the U.S. Air Force and NASA, opens with a young girl named Amanda hard at work raking leaves. While gathering the leaves into a pile, she discovers a pretty stone that jingles like garden bells and feels warm to the touch. Pocketing the stone, she finds several animals around the garden in various states of distress: a slug with no slime, butterflies with ragged wings, a lizard with no color. “It’s that lazy garden fairy,” the animals complain. Everything in the garden requires magic from the garden fairy, they tell Amanda, and lately she hasn’t been around to do her job.
Determined to find the fairy and fix the problem, Amanda sits on a garden bench to think, but her problem-solving is interrupted by the arrival of the fairy. And she’s not happy. “This is my garden,” she snips. “I fix things around here.” The fairy, a tiny version of Amanda with wings, tells the girl to leave her garden.
Amanda calls the fairy on her rude behavior, accuses her of being lazy and stands her ground. “I live here,” Amanda declares, “I get mail here. Do you?”
This cuts to the fairy’s heart—she breaks down and begins to sob. “I’ll get this fixed,” Amanda promises. The fairy admits she’s lost her magic, and when Amanda again sits down, the stone in her pocket clunks against the bench, causing it to jingle. “That’s it!” hollers the fairy. “It’s my magic!” After the fairy accuses Amanda of taking her magic and demanding it back, the girl removes the stone from her pocket and places it on the bench, where glitter leaks from it. Immediately the fairy scatters glitter over the garden, restoring its residents to their bright, colorful, vibrant selves. The fairy winks and disappears in a glittery cloud.
Amanda runs to the house to find her brother, who rolls on the floor laughing in disbelief. Upset at her brother’s response, she stamps her foot and thrusts her hands in her pockets. When she removes them she discovers one hand is covered in glitter from the stone. She tosses the glitter into the air where it swirls and falls onto her brother, with unexpected consequences. “Uh oh,” whispers Amanda as she slowly closes the door. …
Throughout the story, hard-working Amanda demonstrates grace and determination to set things right in the garden, despite the fairy’s petulance. The fairy, on the other hand, provides the perfect contrast to Amanda’s virtues: she’s rude, whiny, prideful, and seemingly ungracious even when Amanda gives back the stone containing the magic dust. She doesn’t even say thank you as she leaves, magic stone secure again in her backpack. Her wink and smile, however, are enough for Amanda as she runs off excitedly to tell her brother about what had just transpired.
In the end the story proves the garden fairy was not actually lazy but acting with an overly-developed sense of self-reliance—if she’d only admitted she’d lost her magic in the first place and had reached out to other garden residents for help, the misunderstanding and its impact on their relationships could have been avoided. Kind of like real life, eh?
As I closed the book, I nodded: Deanna’s words had kept me guessing, and Steve’s illustrations—especially the expressions on the characters’ faces—had kept me engaged, adding a thousand words with each turn of the page. And like in days past when I snuggled up with Bread and Jam for Frances or memorized the corny puns from countless riddle books, Amanda and the Lazy Garden Fairy reinforced why we writers do this: to repackage life lessons into a story we’ll both remember and keep coming back to. After all, books are the glittery magic dust bringing vibrancy and restoration to the ordinariness of life.
For more information about Deanna K. Klingel and her other wonderful books, please visit her website at www.booksbydeanna.com. And check out Steve Daniel’s work at www.cubby198.net or at www.facebook.com/authorillustratorsteve.daniels.
For more information about Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, please check out www.progressiverisingphoenix.com.
Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes