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*The Mud Fairy* by Amy Young
The Mud Fairy
by Amy Young
Ages 4-8 40 pages Bloomsbury USA March 2010 Hardcover    

The Mud Fairy is a charming new picture book by Amy Young that offers shrewd advice and encouragement while educating little ones about the life cycle.

Little Emmelina, at the ripe young age of one hundred years old, is right on the cusp of earning her wings. Fairies earn their wings through grand acts that enrich their world. Twink gracefully invites a flower to open; when Emmelina tries to do the same, it does not go well.

Fairies are expected to be prim and proper, to sip dew drops - not gulp them - to be pretty, precise and polite all the time. Emmelina loves nothing more than to play in the swamp, in the mud, with her froggie friends. Playing in the mud does not earn wings!

Emmelina struggles with the universal adolescent struggle of feeling that she doesn’t fit in and being uncertain of her role or direction in life. Through her struggle - and eventual redemption - young girls will hopefully absorb the confidence Emmelina gains as she becomes more comfortable and sure of herself.

She doesn’t work to blend into the crowd, even with her fears and worries. The fairy queen teaches Emmelina that she will be loved and accepted - and be most content - when she learns to simply be who she is.

The little fairy spends much of her time with her friends, the frogs of the swamp. Partway through their story, the frogs have tadpoles. One of the happiest things about The Mud Fairy is seeing the growth of the frog families. It is a small part of the story, but it is handled with delicate joy.

The illustrations are incredibly detailed, showing fairy floral fashion, table settings with a blueberry cup, a young fairy missing a tooth. They are soft, intricate pictures, while strangely managing to be vibrantly colored at the same time. Pastels are mixed with brighter, more dynamic colors with huge success.

The variety in skin tones, hair colors and styles, even unique choices of clothing offers a surprising degree of differences that subtly encourages young readers to also express their own blossoming personalities as individuals.

The Mud Fairy is a wonderful book for little girls of all ages, and the boys who love them. While it is a beautiful fantasy realm, Amy Young addresses real troubles that real girls face. Better yet, she gently offers solutions while hiding a bit of education under the flowers that make her story so pretty.

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  Carolynn Evans/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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