Fairy Esther is out of sorts. The other fairies believe that everything in the natural world is magic while Esther is always seeking a scientific explanation for what she sees around her.
They use magic wands, and they mix magic potions.
Some fairies even make magical fairy dust. Esther
is pretty sure it’s just dandruff.
She is the only fairy in Pixieville who believes in science.
Esther prefers facts, data and hard evidence to wishing on stars.
Ms. Pelly Petal, with her watermelon-red coif and her mushroom stool, is the teacher at Pixieville fairy school. She is no better than the students when it comes to explaining why things are the way they are. She tells the class that fairies were born “when a drop of rain passed through a rainbow”. Esther thinks it is “more likely that fairies, as a species, evolved in response to influences such as environment and diet”.
Esther is frustrated at being unable to make the other fairies acknowledge her point of view, and she takes out her anger by kicking a skinny, sad-looking tree in the fairy forest. All its leaves fall to the ground. There must be a scientific reason! And hanging talismans on the branches and doing mystical moonlight dances are just not going to fix the problem.
A hypothesis leads to experimentation which helps Esther draw a conclusion: the tree needs more light. After cutting away a lot of overhanging foliage and waiting more or less patiently through a cycle of seasons, the results are in. The tree has been revived.
Although the other fairies still believe Ms. Pelly Petal’s magic spell is responsible for the tree's coming back to health, they are intrigued by Esther’s ideas and ask her to introduce them to her scientific methods. Esther’s laboratory becomes a busy place.
British Columbia author Ashley Spires is known for her humorous books, such as “Binky the Space Cat” series of easy graphic novels and The Most Magnificent Thing. (http://www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol20/no36/themostmagnicentthing.html ) She takes her usual off-centre approach here to combine an engaging and imaginative story with some solid information that will encourage young scientists. The last two pages of the book even include step-by-step instructions for an exercise in observing seed germination.
Spires is also a talented illustrator. She imbues the scenes of fairy activity with delicate colour and lively detail. This is a nicely diverse band of fairies, and the variety of facial expressions is priceless. Every fairy, even the cynical Esther, is sporting a pair of gauzy wings, and the main character, with her purple hair and blue flower petal dress, is to be found on every page. Readers who are paying attention will enjoy the visual (and verbal jokes) to be found throughout.
Fairy Science is a book which will likely find its place on the picture book shelves of a primary library, but the nonfiction element will provide a pleasant and useful surprise.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.