Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review of Fortune's Magic Farm by Suzanne Selfors

Selfors, Suzanne. Fortune's Magic Farm. Little, Brown, 2009.

Ten-year-old Isabelle's "grandma," who unofficially adopted her after Isabelle was left on the doorstep as an infant, insists that there was a time when the sun shone in Runny Cove and folks were happy - but Isabelle has only known constant rain and a grueling life toiling away in Mr. Supreme's Umbrella Factory. In fact, that's the way life is for almost everyone in Runny Cove, where all hair is colorless, all skin is pruny with moisture, and slugs are the happiest creatures around. However, one day an elephant seal delivers a magic apple to Isabelle, and soon she has escaped with a mysterious, if slightly cranky, lad named Sage to the hidden land where her family tends a farm that grows magic. Not only does Isabelle blossom (almost literally) in the sunny splendor of Fortune's Farm, but she is able to use her new gifts and resources to bring much-needed aid to the good people of Runny Cove.

This fantasy draws a bit from Dickens (the nasty boarding house, the dreary factory, the poor orphans) and a bit from Dahl (over-the-top mean grown-ups, plucky kids with a specialness to them), but the overall effect is lighter and fluffier -perhaps it's because Isabelle's sunny nature is absolutely undeterred by her grim situation or maybe it's the eccentric folks and creatures (especially a slightly deaf elephant seal and a rock-throwing marmot) whom she meets. I was reminded of The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes by Kelly Easton, which has a bit of the same sweet, slightly fey quality to it despite the mistreatment of the heroine by ludicrously despicable adults.

The nature of the magic on Fortune's Farm, and especially its use and limitations, remains rather vague, and the happy ending (the transformation of Runny Cove into Sunny Cove) is too pat and hurried to be very satisfying, especially the marriage that occurs in the blink of an eye. One other quibble is the cover art, which depicts Isabelle not with gray hair (as she has in Runny Cove) or green hair (as she has in Fortune's Farm), but with brown hair. As someone who tends to scrutinize cover art (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this), I find such blatant inattention to details irritating. The inside illustrations, drawn by a different artist - Catia Chien - have much more eccentric charm.

All in all, this is a cheerful and fast-moving fantasy with just the right amount of whimsy. Recommended for ages 8 to 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment