“Mostly girls read fairy books and books never say what they eat.”
Boys and fairies don’t ordinarily mix but Freddie’s 3 Fat Fairies isn’t a normal fairy story. When Freddie is suddenly confronted by three crash-landed fairies at the bottom of his garden, he finds that Lolyew, Der and Ergne (whose names are anagrams of their hair-colours) aren’t the traditional pixie-dust types. Their anti-authoritarian views have led the Fairy Queen to expel them from Fairyland, minus their wings.
Freddie and his down-to-earth friends, John, Paul, Big Sam and Little Sam, have difficulty accepting that the three tiny, truculent beings they encounter are fairies. “Oh Freddie, they are not fairies, you turkey, they are just little fat people,” says Little Sam. Without their wings, the fairies can’t even climb a tree to escape the cat. Some visiting girls, Holz (Holly), Jojo (Joanne), Sons (Sonia) and Paula, prove they are more practical than the boys, arranging food for the hungry fairy trio, whose eating habits aren’t what anyone expected. “The three fat fairies began to shovel food into their mouths. They kept grabbing and stuffing their mouths full, every now and then stopping to let out a loud burp then diving back into the platter again.”
The fairies are interesting characters, with some refreshingly original views on life. Their response to an approaching girl is typical. “No one is touching us, thank you,” said Lelyow, “you’re all dirty and ugly.” Fairies can also give looks that make “cabbages pickle and grapes shrivel”.
Freddie and his friends, too embarrassed to admit to ever reading fairy stories, know that fairies must offer them three wishes. “It’s make-believe. Fairies can’t do wishes,” protests Lolyew. Then the children make their wishes and, in a droll sequence, find out how the fairies grant them. Paula’s wish, however, is a really serious one and beyond the powers of the craftiest fairies. Fortunately Wendy Steeds is in control of her story and when the Fairy Queen makes her entrance, there is no nonsense: “The Fairy Queen was beautiful and she knew it.” Unfortunately she lands in the cauliflowers, but recovers her dignity sufficiently to provide the story with what can only be described as a satisfactorily happy ending for all who deserve one.
Jane Smith’s black and white illustrations and page decorations are charming without being sentimental, and really bring the characters to life. Excerpts from a review by Trevor Agnew
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