Monday, April 6, 2009

Gnomes, fairies, sprites and other garden creatures

I was never much of fairy person, nor have any special affinity for them, but I'm always trying to think of new ways to lie to my children (and have fun in the garden). A couple of years ago I started planting tropical hibiscus in some of our patio containers, along with lots of other annuals, and one day my daughter discovered the sepal from a past bloom laying in the soil. If you're not familiar with this plant, the bloom only lasts for one or two days then the petals fall off, leaving the cup-shaped sepals that once protected the bud. The sepals often fall from the stem as well, resembling a perfect little fairy cap. I showed her how it fit on the tip of my finger and drew a little smiley face on the end. I told them about some of the magical little creatures that might be hiding in our yard (mostly gnomes and fairies), and that sometimes they leave things behind when they're in a hurry and run away. All of them aren't quite sure they should believe me, but bless their little hearts they search under leaves and behind blossoms to try and find them hiding, build little houses and fairy towns for them, and even "dress up" their own little fingers to try and lure the fairies out to play. They've even discovered their own artifacts from the gnomes and fairies. A small branch becomes a gnomes walking stick, acorns are the balls left behind from their games, hosta leaves become fairy umbrellas. It's so sweet, and keeps them endlessly preoccupied.

I just checked out a book at the library called Fairies, Trolls & Goblins Galore by Dilys Evans. The book features sixteen short poems by different authors about sixteen different mythical creatures (several I've never heard of before). I appreciate that the author tried to stay true to their history, but I sugar-coated a few of their descriptions to my under six crowd to reduce the number of nightmares in our house. I want them to enjoy the magic of the garden, not be terrified out there. So anyone that kidnaps children, steals humans or appears when you're going to die (sorry, spriggans, sinister elves and banshees) might have their bio changed when I read it. Really, the best offering from the book is the wonderful illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers. My favorite fairy book is still The Book of Little Folk by Lauren Mills. Mills' book offers truly delightful, culturally diverse stories, poetry, and folktales AND incredibly charming illustrations. Check out the little guy playing the triangle on the cover. How funny is he?! It's one I would highly recommend to your child's collection.

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