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ELSIE TIMES EIGHT by Natalie Babbitt

ELSIE TIMES EIGHT

By Natalie Babbitt (Author) , Natalie Babbitt (Illustrator)

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-0900-0
Publisher: Hyperion

A fairy godmother who is slightly hard of hearing wreaks arithmetic havoc in this original fairy tale from Babbitt (Ouch!, 1998, etc.). Elsie’s mother says that she has been behaving well—“she didn’t always do what she should, before.” But the fairy godmother hears, “she should be four,” and with a whisk of her wand, Elsie immediately becomes four Elsies. Elsie’s horrified father cries, “No, wait!,” and the fairy godmother turns the four Elsies into eight, and flies away. Chaos ensues, as all the Elsies fight over what was once just right for one Elsie, and when “it was time for bed, Papa and Mama couldn’t keep track of which Elsies they had hugged and which they hadn’t.” The quarreling among the eight Elsies becomes so great that the entire family is run out of town, until they meet the fairy godmother, who, with the help of the cat, restores the family to their proper number—well, almost. The illustrations are done in muted watercolors, and depict an old-fashioned fairy-tale village located in some northern European landscape. The fairy godmother herself is black in her features, but not otherwise culturally distinct. The real stars of the story are the Elsies, who scowl, shout, quarrel, and make mischief with octupled abandon. While the illustrations are quite nice in composition and background, many of the figures and facial expressions are static, resulting in a sometimes awkward look to the paintings. Still, the slyness with which Babbitt captures the Elsies’ many moods compensates, and moreover, the concept of a suddenly multiplied self, with its many advantages and disadvantages, is sure to appeal to youngsters. (Picture book. 4-8)