(Recommended Ages: 7-11)
A Q&A with Karen McQuestion Question:
You’re a bestselling women’s fiction author with your novels A Scattered Life
and Easily Amused
. What drove you to try your hand at children’s literature?
Karen McQuestion: I have a confession to make: I never outgrew children’s books and I still read them to this day. A good kids’ book can be completely engrossing, transporting the reader to a whole new world. I clearly remember the joy I felt when first reading A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and the books of Edward Eager. I wanted to try my hand at writing for younger readers to see if I could create the same experience for others.
Question: What inspired the plot of Celia and the Fairies?
Karen McQuestion: Fireflies! Growing up I was always fascinated by the flashing glow of fireflies at night. Something about them seemed magical, and from a distance it was easy to imagine that they might be fairies. And who knows? Maybe sometimes the lights we assume to be fireflies are indeed fairies. I like to think that almost anything is possible.
As a kid reader, I loved stories where the main character was someone like me, an average person going about their usual routine of school and home, when something extraordinary occurs. And in Celia and the Fairies, that’s exactly what happens. I guess I wrote the kind of book I would have loved when I was young.
Question: What do you hope kids who read the book will take away from it?
Karen McQuestion: A few adult readers have said that Celia and the Fairies has a good message, and it does, but I’m glad that I haven’t gotten that same comment from kids. Instead, they talk about how much they love the scenes with the fairies, and how exciting it was when Celia had to venture out into the woods alone to save the day. I hope first and foremost to tell an entertaining story, and if a good message goes along with it, that’s fine, too.
Ten-year-old Celia is excited when her beloved grandmother moves in with her family. To begin with, Grammy’s arrival means that she won’t have to go to her obnoxious neighbor Paul’s house after school. She also loves Grammy’s stories about fairies who reside in the nearby woods. Her parents say the fairies aren’t real, but Celia learns otherwise when she meets Mira, a fairy who warns her about a nefarious woman, Vicky McClutchy, who plans to take over Celia’s family’s toy company, and it’s up to Celia to stop her. Although she is supported by Grammy, the fairies, magic, and surprisingly, Paul, Celia must ultimately use her own courage and wits to thwart Vicky. The characters lack dimension, and the moral messages are heavy, with themes of penitence, forgiveness, and fairies as “good spirits,” versus evil “shadow things” that spawn human greed and selfishness. Still, the short chapters and straightforward, descriptive prose make for a quick read that is likely to draw contemporary fairy-story fans. Grades 4-6. --Shelle Rosenfeld