The Preeminent Fairy Expert Speaks Out

h1 September 15th, 2010 by jules


“One by one, the brownies came into her room: some under the crack beneath the door, others through the air vent. Soon all two hundred of them stood at her feet, staring up at her sadly, wringing their nutshell hats in their hands…”

Weeks ago, I mentioned (here) reading and loving this book, Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate, as told to Lesley M.M. Blume and illustrated by David Foote, released by this month by Alfred A. Knopf. Well, I knew I wanted to tell you a bit more about it. One day. When my schedule gets less hectic. Ahem. (Not gonna happen.)

But I see that Betsy Bird gave us one of her detailed write-ups of the book yesterday in her Review of the Day post, not to mention Monica Edinger covers it over at her “Refreshingly Nasty Fairies” post from the very beginning of this week. So, I decided to zippy-quick-like tell you about it today, after all. Or send you to them and let them do it: Monica calls it “fresh and different,” which, indeed, it is. And Betsy, who describes this one as fun and original, notes that Ms. Blume has the ability to make you believe in the impossible, no less. Which, indeed, she does.

So, I say: Shoo. Go over and read those well-written posts from those smart ladies. My job is to not only throw in my ringing endorsement for this fun book (which, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is a read-aloud for my girls, and we are having much fun reading this one), but to also showcase some art from it. So, here we go…Oh, wait! I managed to get this straight from Lesley herself. When I asked if she would be writing anymore—er, I mean, if Edythe would be relating any more tales to her, she responded:

It’s unlikely that I’ll write more about these specific creatures, although there are many others that have yet to get their moment on the stage — in NYC’s fairy world and elsewhere.

David and I are now turning our sights on the ancient world: our next book will be a collection of rather wild fables about extinct, fantastical creatures that once roamed the earth. Most of them are quite peculiar and even defy imagination — but they still offer important lessons about our world today.

Oh là là, my friends! Me likey.

Okay, right. Back to the art: Below are a handful of illustrations from the book, the successfully eerie, slightly macabre, smacking-of-Gorey art work from one David Foote. (Actually, the art is not unlike Edward Gorey runs into Jen Corace in a bar and buys her a drink, while still retaining its own David-Foote style.) Enjoy.

And….if you pick this one up for yourself and read it, come back and discuss!


“You may think that fairies are make-believe or extinct like dinosaurs. You also probably think of all fairies as lovely winged creatures, frolicking around in bluebell fields, singing and dancing and granting wishes. If so, you’re wrong on all accounts.”


“Next time your family eats corn on the cob for dinner, save some of the silk when you husk the corn beforehand. Leave it out for the fairies;
they weave dresses and rugs and hammocks out of it.”


“…{T}he most well known of the dangerous mermaid breeds is the Lorelei … Each one sits upon rocks in the middle of the sea, combing her long, golden hair. Sailors who spot a Lorelei and hear her bewitching songs are supposed to automatically fall under her spell; they usually crash their ships into the rocks where the Lorelei perches. No one knows whether those men die or are kept as her slaves.”

* * * * * * *

MODERN FAIRIES, DWARVES, GOBLINS & OTHER NASTIES: A PRACTICAL GUIDE BY MISS EDYTHE McFATE. Text copyright © 2010 by Lesley M. M. Blume. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by David Foote. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.





7 comments to “The Preeminent Fairy Expert Speaks Out”

  1. Thanks! I am glad you too saw the Gorey tinge in the art. (And I’m very jealous that you got a limited-edition print.)

    So neat that the three of us separately went for this one at the same time!


  2. Great minds think alike. Or, at the very least, seem to align at just the right moments sometimes.


  3. Although I’d like to read the book now – as I’ve seen a couple myself! – the art is not really like Edward Gorey at all. And I love Gorey!

    People aren’t used to seeing any b/w drawings outside of the New Yorker. I would compare this to fashion illustration of the last century, although the last one of waves is very Japanese.


  4. I love books like this, that teach you about the “real” mystical animals roaming the earth. I remember adoring a book when I was younger called “Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History” which I read ragged throughout middle school, wishing it was real. Definitely fun stuff.


  5. Making the impossible possible…now that’s what i like! long live the folk tale!


  6. This book arrived on Friday afternoon. I cannot WAIT to dive into it.


  7. Marvelous illustrations!


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