Saturday, February 19, 2011

Under the Green Hill, by Laura L. Sullivan

With a fever spreading in the States, Meg, Rowan, Silly (Priscilla), and James get sent away to spend the summer with their distant relations in England. While the parents think that this is safe decision, the relatives realize that it is poor timing. During the approaching summer, the fairies that populate the woods around the house are preparing for their once-every-seven-years war. The children, through their curiosity and disobedience, manage to get themselves involved in the conflict. The solution involves the help of two other children who were sent to England with them. In the process, everyone learns lessons about cooperation, respect, and getting along.

Sullivan's writing is beautiful and evokes the sheer innocence of the Narnia series or classic adventure books for young readers (like Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys). While set in a world that claims to be contemporary, the children's lives are strangely devoid of iPods, cell phones, and American Idol. Instead, they are enmeshed in good clean outdoor fun (if attempting to slay your great-grandfather in order to avoid a fairy curse can be counted in the category of "good" and "clean"!). The sheer naivete of this world doesn't really work for me (contemporary children's lit is more knowing and cynical) but I appreciate its beauty and the nostalgia for a time when children's lives were simpler. The richness of the vocabulary used in this book may flummox some readers (it sent me to the dictionary a few times!), but even that comes from a bygone era when children's lit was written in sophisticated prose.

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