At first blush, Fliess's poem feels like it's covering familiar ground: fairies fly and skip through flowers and zip through trees and hum and buzz among the bees. But the poem quickly shifts focus, to a young girl, reading a fairy book, who meets and courts the fairies. She builds them a beautiful little house, which they come to inhabit, and as she and the fairies grow closer, she finds a new best friend among them, one who "will teach you how to fly/sail with you through forest sky."
The girl and the fairy part ways, but are finally reunited, for "time may pass while she's away/but do not let your heart dismay/for if you're thoughtful, kind and true/your fairy will return to you!"
It's a very loving and gentle story told in verse, but when the pictures are added to it, it is transformed into an epic tale of endless warm afternoons, timeless imagination games, the intensity of friendship and the abandon of childhood.
Keane's character designs are — unsurprisingly — so animated that the book might work just as well without words, and it's sure to delight pre-literate kids who will lose themselves in the photos of making, playing, and chattering away with your best pals.
The package is as lovely as the pictures, too, with embossed, foil Art Deco fairies in the dust-jacket and a raised plasticized cover-painting. It's a beautiful book to hold, and it just gets better from there.
A Fairy Friend [Sue Fliess and Claire Keane/Henry Holt]