A free-spirited tale about elves that spend their time chasing down and collecting the joys of life, this book has an underlying message that is much deeper—nearly hidden.
The titular Things in the Air are elusive, fleeting moments that bring happiness to all: a delicious smell, a lovely smile, funny riddles. The Sparkling Elves spend their days tracking down these fleeting joys until the Snouty Witches appear. Gray and gloomy, the witches symbolize the adult world with briefcases and an impatience with useless things. Their goal is be rid of the Things in the Air, which will turn the Sparkling Elves into dull, hardworking creatures. Will they succeed? Perhaps it’s something in the translation, as the premise doesn’t quite work, with illustrations that confuse and an overload of text on many pages. Surreal and phantasmagoric, the images convey a sense of the absurd with bright colors and bug-eyed creatures. Yet hidden under the magical overlay there are references to serious illness that are revealed in bits and pieces: baldness, dreamland and evil things that take away time. These chilling references, once seen, loom large, changing a silly fantasy book into a healing fable about the terminally ill.
Saved by those sparkling elves, this tale will have fans who will appreciate its ethereal otherness, but for a typical audience, the symbolism will likely be lost in confusion. (Fiction. 6 & up)