“Hidden deep in the heart of Folkland Wood there lies a doorway into Faerie. It
only opens when the moon grins mischievously in the sky, and even then, it’s not
“Fairy-sighted humans view two worlds at once…”
Welcome back to the blog everyone and thank you for reading. I took somewhat of a hiatus from writing over the holiday season but have a lot of book reviews pending and one author interview on tap as well.
This week, I had the pleasure of reading Folkland Fables: Scottish Fairy Creatures, the book from which the opening quotes to this post comes. I must say, that it is by far the most interesting of all the books that I’ve reviewed up until now.
The book is written by Scottish author Jenni Gudgeons as a sort of traveler’s guide to the fairy creatures that live in the woods by her house in Scotland. So, it’s different in that there is not really any sort of plot to follow. Just descriptions, backgrounds, and behavioral patterns of the creatures. However, not having a plot does not mean that it is not engaging. I found it to be very much so and truly enjoyed it. It is longer than most of the books that I review and much more suited for upper elementary level students and the illustrations belie that. I will describe them more in detail later as they are definitely noteworthy.
- Illustrations for sure. I fell in love with them. They are done on two page spreads. The bases for the illustrations are actual pictures of the woods and things in them such as trees, flowers, moss, etc. However, superimposed over the photographs, are fanciful illustrations of the creatures described. They are done in classical fairy tale style in which realistic portrayal is thrown to the wind and creature merges with vegetation and vegetation merges with geography. It’s really hard to describe. Think Where the Wild Things Are mixed with original portrayals of the Billy Goats Gruff only more fanciful and whimsical. The colors of the creatures are all done in black, white, yellow/gold and orange, which gives it even more a rare aura. Again. It’s hard to describe without actually seeing them.
- The descriptive language in the book is very good as well. Gudgeon uses many very precise adjectives to create word pictures to accompany her illustrations. The backgrounds and behaviors of the creatures are all very precise and developed as well. It’s almost Tolkien-esque.
- The book is very unique in its portrayal of several common creatures such as unicorns. While in most books and stories, unicorns are revered and sacred, Gudgeon describes them as more vain, arrogant, petty, and annoying.
- The book includes several creatures not common in fairy stories such as a washerwoman, wood brownies, will-o’-the-wisps, and more. As a traveler’s guide, Folkland Fables not only describes them but also gives advice on how to best interact with them. It’s really very neat.
Teaching and Discussion Points
- Folkland Fables would be a great book to read and compare with similar stories involving fairy creatures such as unicorns, trolls, pucks, etc. Use Venn diagrams to show similarities and differences in both appearance and behavior.
- Although some of the creatures are portrayed with negative characteristics, Gudgeon doesn’t vilify them. She simply describes them honestly and tells how to interact with them in the best way. Discuss how this is how we can approach some people too. Everyone brings something different to a classroom environment and everyone has a different set of life experiences that causes them to be who they are. This is important to realize and take into account as humans and as fairy creatures.
- It’s almost a good thing that there is no plot from a teaching perspective as this leaves room for students to create their own stories based on the creatures’ characteristics. Creative writing is such an important skill for development. This is a great opportunity for it.
- Another great creative opportunity is for students to create their own fairy creatures. Don’t put any caveats or limitations on it. Allow them to be as wild and fanciful as the students can dream. This is a great time when their creativity does not need to be reined in at all. Now play a game to test the students’ descriptive writing. Have the students exchange papers and illustrate their partner’s creature based on the description. Assess how well each person was able to do it and have them add more description as necessary.
- Summarizing is also an essential skill. Have the students break into groups of four or five and compile a bullet-point style traveler’s guide to the forest with each creature being an entry. Have each entry include a physical description category, a behavioral characteristics category, and a traveler’s advice category. Have them research similar guides for other areas like the Sahara, rainforest, or arctic tundra.
All in all, Folkland Fables was a very interesting read. I don’t think that I would recommend it for younger children. However, if you are looking for an engaging and fanciful read with fantastic illustrations, this is a good place to find it. You can find Folkland Fables on Amazon at this link. It costs 25.99 for a hardback and 13.99 for paperback. The Kindle version is only 6.99.
As always, thank you for reading. Special thanks to Jenni Gudgeon for allowing me to review her book. I really hope that there are more to come with actual stories involving the creatures of Folkland Woods. To follow the blog and receive and email update when I post something new, please click on the link in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Happy New Year everyone.