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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seven Wild Sisters, written by Charles De Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2013. $20.00 ages 8 and up

"I guess I could have been concerned about any number of things right then, from the danger we were in to what Mama was going to say when and if I ever got myself home, but the last thing I thought about as we passed out of this world and into some other was that we'd left Root in the barn. Who was going to look after him and Henny? Who was going to feed Aunt Lillian's chickens?"

Ah, seven sisters! We meet Sarah Jane first...she is the middle one and this is her story. Following her father's death, her mother and siblings moved to her grandparents' old farm, hoping for a life that would provide a living and a happy home. As she wanders about the woods she so loves, Sarah Jane meets Aunt Lillian, an older woman living on a nearby farm.

They spend many days together. Sarah Jane learns about living on the land, while caring for nature's creatures and she also listens to Aunt Lillian's engrossing stories of fairies and magical creatures who live nearby. The stories are pure fantasy to Sarah Jane, who enjoys them as children enjoy fairy tales. It is only when she saves the life of an injured magic man that Sarah Jane becomes privy to the feud that rages between two groups of mystical creatures...the 'sang men and the bee fairies.

Her six sisters are captured by the warring groups in order to make Sarah Jane acquiesce to their demands for retribution and a return to the true order of the forest fairy world. She will need help. She first turns to Aunt Lillian, a bit of a magical creature herself. Then, the Apple Tree Man who certainly has a long time connection with the old woman. They are not the only ones involved. It takes a lot of planning and a great deal of negotiation (and some bold trickery)  to return things to what was normal.

Luckily, this is a fairy tale and all's well that ends well. It is a second story of the Tanglewood Forest, and will certainly appeal to fans of that fine book (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, 2013). They will recognize a few characters and meet many new ones. They are companion stories; one need not be read before the other. But, young readers are often intrigued to find familiar characters in more than one tale.

Charles De Lint is adept at letting his readers know enough about each of seven sisters to keep each of them clear in our minds. He writes with energy and humor. I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, although  I did truly enjoy the camaraderie he created between Sarah Jane and Aunt Lillian.

The book itself is quite lovely...engaging and accomplished text, an inviting cover and interior artwork, and a brand new fairy tale, to boot. Sarah Jane tells her story in first person, while those sections that describe her sisters and their action are told  in the third person, making for some appealing transitions. The sisters and their various unique skills help bring the story to a fitting end.

If I am reading the clues given, I suspect that we are likely to meet these young women at some time in the future. I will not be disappointed. A love interest for Sarah Jane is sure to add to our anticipation of her next adventure. 

This is wonderful and worthwhile introduction to fantasy, for those just beginning an exploration of a brand new genre.

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