Photographer Richardson wrote this, his impressive debut, to help process his grief.
Lavender Blue is devastated to learn that her friend Rose O’Brien doesn’t have long to live. Vowing to the stars that she will do anything to prevent Rose’s death, Lavender falls asleep clutching a rosebud but awakens feeling peaceful and holding a necklace and charm instead of the rosebud. Her teacher, Professor Priddle, consults a volume on the history of the faeries of Galtee Wood and concludes that the symbol on the charm represents the golden rainbow. He believes that the faeries consider Lavender blessed and are trying to communicate with her. Professor Priddle gives her a pouch filled with iron dust to ward away evil faeries. She starts to walk home when she sees a rainbow peek through the clouds. Wondering if it’s a sign, she runs toward it and encounters a leprechaun, who tells her that if she delivers the necklace to Rose by midnight, her friend will be saved; if not, Rose will die. Thus begins Lavender’s journey through the Galtee Wood, by turns worrying, terrifying and occasionally joyous. Just when Lavender gives up all hope, she meets the beautiful faerie queen, Wisteria. Inspired by the real-life Galtee Woods and Lismore Castle, the story is beautifully crafted, with a believable mixture of fay folk, both good and evil. Although the chapter book is exquisitely illustrated—MacDougall’s watercolorlike drawings are one of the book’s main attractions—it shouldn’t be mistaken for a picture book, since the subject matter will be too disturbing for younger children. Despite the serious subject matter, the book just narrowly avoids being morbid or too sad. Rose’s undisclosed illness is puzzling, most of all to Lavender, who isn’t quite convincing as the heroic protagonist the faeries consider her to be. Although she claims to be devoted to her dying friend, she is too easily distracted and excessively gullible. Nonetheless, the paranormal elements are engaging, as are the book’s reassuring, simple morals of loyalty and doing anything for your friends.
A lovely story with charming illustrations, though it may be disturbing for some younger readers.