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Afternoon of the Elves Paperback – May 24, 1999


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Series: Novel
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (May 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0698118065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0698118065
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #934,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This enchanting story about friendship reveals the beauty, wonder and mystery that lies within the imagination. With rare talent, Lisle ( Sirens and Spies , The Great Dimpole Oak ) conveys a girl's vision of magic and truth through a montage of surreal images. Sara-Kate, the poorest, least reputable girl in school, invites Hillary home to see what the village elves have built in her yard. Among the overgrown weeds and piles of rubbish, Hillary discovers an incredible landscape filled with miniature houses. During the next few weeks, the girls work together to create their own additions to the village. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiny inhabitants, Hillary becomes more aware of her surroundings and eventually gains insight about her new friend. Then Hillary's mother learns about Sara-Kate's decrepit house and the girl's ailing mother, who lives upstairs. Sara-Kate is sent away to relatives in Kansas, her mother is placed in an institution, and only the village remains. Ultimately, the book suggests that friendship is as eternal as magic--even after Sara-Kate has left, her presence is still felt. Ages 9-11.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-- A fascinating portrayal of a manipulative yet touching friendship. Nine-year-old Hillary lives in comfortable suburbia with her parents. In the house behind lives tough, independent Sara-Kate. Her father's gone, her sick mother hides, she dresses like an urchin, and is despised and mocked at school. However, Hillary stumbles on Sara-Kate's secret; she tends a tiny village in her weed-filled back yard, a village where she says elves live. Hillary is fascinated, and in helping her neighbor maintain the village, gradually becomes closer to Sara-Kate despite her school friends' disdain and parental disapproval. She starts not only to believe in elves, but also to wonder if Sara-Kate is not one herself. The ambiguous clues as to whether Sara-Kate is really an elf or just a disturbed child are so well wrought that readers will be as uncertain as Hillary. The children's emotions and behavior are believable and authentic, depicted clearly without over-explaining, especially Hillary's inner conflict. Lisle captures the subtlety of childhood feelings and perceptions, while maintaining a language and style accessible to average readers. Hillary grows from a bland follower to someone who knows that it is she, ultimately, who must make up her mind, despite the opinions of those around her, and perhaps become a little like all that was good in Sara-Kate herself. --Annette Curtis Klause, Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries, MD
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

What a beautiful and wonderful story.
JAScribbles
When an author can do this and still find redemption without resorting to the sentimental or maudlin, she has done something pretty good.
Greg Kimura
I checked this book out because I am very much into kids' fantasy, and I wanted to read about elves.
E. A Solinas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Fiore on March 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult book to read and accept. It beautifully delivers a message that I think most readers will dodge, particularly young readers, but perhaps most well-trained adults as well. It points out that our society's politically correct response to some social situations may be morally completely wrong.
Hillary is a happy kid from a good home, with plenty of happy friends. But she is fascinated by her next-door neighbor Sara-Kate in spite of her junk-filled yard, her ratty clothes, and her strange ways. Sara-Kate, you see, has elves in her back yard. And an inordinate amount of knowledge of the strong and independent ways of elves. Slowly, Sara-Kate's elvish charm draws Hillary closer, until finally Hillary enters into Sara-Kate's fantasy along with her. As this happens, Hillary also begins to absorb the ugly reality that the fantasy makes bearable: Sara-Kate's father has left, and sends odd bits of money sometimes. Sara-Kate's beloved mother is sick, mentally ill, and Sara-Kate cares for her like a child, hiding the reality from the world so that authorities won't take her mother away from her as before.
There are two levels to the story. On the surface, there is the story of an odd, graceless outcast slowly charming another child away from her old friends with the intensity of her fantasies. Below, however, is the story of an abandoned child and mother, and more, the story of an unusually loyal, strong and resourceful child forced by her mother's mental illness to take on incredible responsibility.
It is a terrible story. By that, I mean that it draws a picture of a horrible mental and physical ordeal. The beautiful fantasy that sustains this unusual kid has the power of its creator's determination. And the sadness of the story is offset by the amazing nobility and optimism of an unusual character.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure what to make of this book after I finished reading it. I think it makes big statements about social conditions and imagination vs. reality that, judging from the reviews posted here, younger readers do not quickly pick up on.
I am still filled with conflicting emotions about the end of this book. Clearly, it was necessary for the authorities to intervene and take Sara-Kate and her mother away. But the author seems to condemn this action, looking through the eyes of Hillary, who tries to persuade her mother that Sara-Kate would have been just fine had she been left alone in her broken-down home and property, stealing and lying to stay alive. There seems to be an elevation of a child's imagination (taken to extremes) over reality; that somehow Hillary's perspective was right and that of the adults was wrong.
I also seemed to pick up on a dark note at the very end with the line about Hillary seeming to have "disappeared." It's almost as if Sara-Kate's elf world sucked Hillary in so effectively that she was destined to "become" Sara-Kate herself--distant, cold, manipulative, and blinded by her fantasies. A disconnection from the real world seemed to have taken place.
Now, I have focused on the negative aspects in this book. It does indeed contain elements of freshness, spark, and a healthy dose of imaginative playfulness. But I found the story to be more haunting than refreshing, more disillusioning than enlightening. This book is very well-written, but strange. Just strange.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
Many books that receive the Newbery Honors award seem to blend into obscurity in a short time, while their Newbery Medal associates become widely read and praised. Imagine my shock to find that there were no copies of the book at my local bookstore and several large bookstores! Lisle's beautifully written novel is one that must not be overlooked. Children will be intoxicated by the mystery of the elves and Sara Kate's elf-like presence. But there are other issues at the heart of the book: how are those that are different in our society treated, especially the impoverished? What happens to children with parents who are unable to care for them? There are also several pertinent points on the theme of friendship--what makes a real friend and why one must choose them wisely. One step into Sara Kate's world and you'll be hooked. Buy this book and share it with everyone you know!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I checked this book out because I am very much into kids' fantasy, and I wanted to read about elves. Unfortunately, I was wrong. FORTUNATELY, I found a wonderful book.
This book is about Hillary, who is jolted from her comfortable, easy upper-class surroundings by the class oddity, a girl called Sara-Kate who says that there are elves living in her overgrown backyard. Even though her snobby parents are clearly uneasy with this new friendship, Hillary comes to see Sara-Kate--and soon discovers a sad, and all too realistic, secret that her friend has been keeping.
This is not a fantasy book. Rather, it is the journey of two young girls, one who is secure, and one who is frightened and alone, but hides it under the guise of her own little world. It's a sad, sweet story, one that every kid should check out.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book has many things that kids today have to go through. Hate, rejection, and friendship. I know many people out there can relate to these three feelings.
Sara-Kate is underfed, nasty, and extremely 'unpopular.' Everybody tells nasty rumors about her, all rounding up to that she's no good. Nobody's ever been in her house, or seen her mother. The only thing Sara-Kate will say about her dad is, "He's on a Trip." But Sara-Kate's magical garden, soon draws Hillary, a well-liked 4th grader into the magic of the elves.
The elves have their own little village, houses, a ferris wheel, and a pool. Whenever Hillary comes, no elves are seen.
Everybody tells Hillary to stop going. She doesn't listen. Some unspeakable magic is pulling her back to that overgrown garden.
But Hillary soon finds out that Sara-Kate needs help much more than magic.
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More About the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle was born in Englewood, NJ, and grew up in Farmington, CT, spending summers on the coast of Rhode Island, where both her maternal and paternal grandparents lived. The eldest and only daughter in a family of five children, she was educated at local schools, and at fifteen entered The Ethel Walker School, a girl's boarding school in Simsbury, CT.

After graduation from Smith College in 1969, with a degree in English, she joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America.) She lived and worked for the next several years in Atlanta, GA, organizing food-buying cooperatives in the city's public housing projects, and teaching in an early-child care center. She later enrolled in journalism courses at Georgia State University with the idea of writing about the poverty she had seen. This was the beginning of a newspaper reporting career that extended over the next ten years.

With the birth of her daughter, Lisle gradually turned from journalism to writing projects that could be accomplished at home. In 1984, THE DANCING CATS OF APPLESAP, her first novel, was published by Bradbury Press (Macmillan.) She has subsequently published fifteen other novels for children.

Lisle's books have received the Newbery Honor Award (for AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES, 1990), the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (for THE ART OF KEEPING COOL, 2001), Holland's Zilverin Griffel (AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES, 1993), and Italy's Premio Andersen Award (HOW I BECAME A WRITER AND OGGIE LEARNED TO DRIVE, 2006) among other honors. Her book BLACK DUCK won the 2007 Rhode Island Book Award from ASTAL, and was an ALA Notable Children's Book.

For adults, Lisle has written a two volume history of the town of Little Compton: FIRST LIGHT, SAKONNET 1660-1820, (2010) and A HOME BY THE SEA 1820-1950 (2012)

She lives in Little Compton, Rhode Island, in a home by the sea.

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