Eden is an unhappy little girl. She’s different than all of the other children at school, for a number of reasons–she’s small, her mind works differently than other kids, and the color of her eyes doesn’t match–and she feels ostracized because of it. One night, she makes a wish on the moon that she could be like everyone else, and as often happens in magical stories such as this, the next day, her parents announce that her uncle, Maurice, whom she has never heard of before, is coming to visit. Maurice isn’t just any uncle, though. He is a Fairy Uncle.
Kat Lanteigne’s charming children’s book, My Fairy Uncle, is full of all sorts of wonderful, concealed messages for children, and even their parents, about diversity, love, acceptance, and coming to love and accept yourself for who you are. Lanteigne’s prose is kind and assured and told completely from Eden’s point of view. Eden is unaware of the adult, real-world implication of “fairy,” and the text wisely never confirms whether Maurice is an actual fairy or simply a metaphorical one. (Incidentally, in the world of My Fairy Uncle, fairies hold rainbow parades, where they can celebrate their pride in a place where everyone believes in fairies.) The subtext is, therefore, allowed to exist without overwhelming the tale with didacticism or preachiness.
What is even more impressive than the text alone, however, is how it interacts with Madeleine Simson’s whimsical and lovely illustrations (my favorite of which is a subtle “bears” gag at the fairy parade in the closing panel that will go over many people’s heads). While little if any “proper” magic occurs in the word-based portion of the book, the pictures seem to display Eden’s fantasies, splashed across the pages in vibrant colors. For example, whereas the narration describes Eden and Maurice going to the park, in the accompanying picture, the two are flying through the clouds, held aloft on Maurice’s beautiful butterfly wings. When Eden first meets Maurice, she fails to see his wings. He tells her that they are only visible to people who believe in fairies, and a moment later, she closes her eyes, and she sees them. In the picture, Maurice, aglow, stands near Eden, her mouth agape, his wings spread to their full span, sparkling and shining. “Mom and Dad! Can you see them?” Eden asks. They do not answer.
This is one of the main reasons that My Fairy Uncle works so well. A child may not even notice that that Eden’s parents don’t seem to see Maurice’s wings. From a child’s perspective, in other words, Eden’s perspective, he is a fairy. From an adult’s, maybe he isn’t. But then again, the narrator never directly tells the reader that her parents don’t see his wings, so maybe he is, after all. More than anything else, while reading My Fairy Uncle, I wish that I had it, or a book like it, when I was a child, because it may have helped make some aspects of my life at the time a lot easier. Fairy pride. What a concept!
You can order My Fairy Uncle at http://www.myfairyuncle.com.