In this illustrated chapter book for middle-grade readers, a brave little sparrow agrees to go on a dangerous journey and free the fairy queen from her evil hawk captor.
Felicity is an ordinary brown sparrow who loves to read. She was taught by Augustus, an ivory-billed woodpecker, who took care of Felicity after a hawk killed her parents. One day, a tiny man dressed in leaves—a fairy named Colin, it turns out—shows up at Felicity’s nest, looking for the woodpecker, who’s needed by the fairy king. But Augustus hasn’t been around, and no one knows where he is. As Colin leaves in disappointment, he’s attacked by a hawk, Felicity warning him just in time (though his wings are damaged). A kind soul, Felicity offers to fly Colin home to the Wildwood. There, she learns that Colin is the son of King Taron and that his mother, Queen Lilia, has been imprisoned by evil sorcerer Grak, called the Night Hawk. An enchantment protects his lair from fairies; birds can enter, but getting past the stone door requires reading the password written there (fortunately, Augustus is literate, as is Felicity). Though frightened, Felicity takes on the quest to brave Grak’s enchantments and rescue Queen Lilia, an adventure that will take strength, smarts, and determination. Evans (The Shores of Bountiful, 2013, etc.) presents an appealing heroine in shy but courageous Felicity, who puzzles things out intelligently while taking bold risks. The fairyland setting is well-drawn, with notable details like the fairy guards’ rose-thorn spears. Many elements of the story feel familiar: the ordinary young person who has something special; the heroine who overcomes tragedy; a puzzle in three parts; the there-and-back-again structure. Also, while Evans generally portrays a sparrow’s point of view well, she can be inconsistent: why would a bird who has no word for automobile (“featherless two-foot’s cart”) be able to correctly name “telephone wire”? Overall, though, Felicity makes an appealing character; youngsters who love to read will feel especially drawn to her.
Well-worn tropes but a charming adventure story with a resourceful heroine.