The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: Booklist readers know that The Fairy Ring: or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (Candlewick 2012) was named Booklist’s Top of the List 2012 Youth Nonfiction winner. I had read this bizarre little nonfiction book in the fall and couldn’t believe the hoax that these two young girls pulled off, including pulling the wool over the eyes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who should have had enough detective sense to ferret out the truth. Like the hoax in Jim Murphy’s The Giant, timing is everything.
“Maybe, these people thought, fairies were just something science didn’t understand yet but would soon. After all, many things seemed like magic if you didn’t understand them. Telegraphs that sent messages through wires! X-rays that could see the bones inside your hand!
To some, it seemed quite likely that a camera could take pictures of fairies. After all, an X-ray could take pictures of things people couldn’t see. Why couldn’t a camera?”
Please read Daniel Kraus’ review to gather more of the details of this story as I want to focus on another element. Near the end of the book (page 161), as the truth behind the paper cut-out fairy hoax is published, Losure reports about articles that were published “in a magazine called The Unexplained: Mysteries of Mind Space & Time.” My middle school librarian brain went immediately to my 031 shelves to a blue encyclopedia set of the same name (H.S. Stuttman 1992). Could it be the same? Sure enough. Volume 5, page 584-601, a series of articles under the heading “Cottingley Fairies.” Fascinating. In addition to some of the photographs that appear in Losure’s book are some of Elsie’s watercolor paintings, a map of the area where the girls “found” and photographed the fairies, the text of a BBC interview with Elsie and other gems. The entry ends with two letters written to the Unexplained Forum with response to the articles published about the fairies. Fans of this unique nonfiction book will want to hunt down this encyclopedia set for the rest of the story.