‘Firefly and the quest of the black squirrel,’ is a children’s book and the fourth volume in the ‘The Fairy Chronicles,’ series. Although this book is a part of a series yet each of these books can be read as a stand-alone book in any order.
The background and setup of the story is explained concisely so that readers can quickly catch up with the characters and plot in every volume of the series. The author of the book is J H Sweet and the illustrator is Tara Larsen Chang. The illustrations in the book are rich and captivating. It is a pure pleasure browsing through them which will easily appeal to children’s chimerical minds.
As the title goes this book is about the adventures of four little girls who are gifted with fairy powers and can magically transform into fairies. Their fairy powers are a secret though to most people including their parents. The girls take their fairy responsibilities in an efficient manner which concern important jobs like protecting nature and fixing problems caused by other magical creatures. Most of the fairy activities could be risky at times but then they also have fairy mentors to guide them. In this volume Firefly and her three friends along with other important members of the fairy team travel very far in search of the blue moon clover to save the squirrels from a curse.
The story has a diverse and versatile set of fairy characters along with other magical creatures from the fairy realm such as the dwarf, goblin, brownie and the squit. Each of their essence has been narrated as befitting their characteristics through the course of their adventure. Their magical abilities are based on traditional fairy folklore and the author has been very creative with the way she has weaved fairy folklore into real life. The different kind of fairy magic and tools such as a fairy handbook, nut messaging system and their transformation will keep the readers hooked while their rich imaginations get intensely involved and creative. The colourful and vivid descriptions of the characters will also indulge the budding minds.
The story takes us mostly through forest trails and meadows which give us a feeling of a lot of plants, trees, insects and animals. The author has additionally provided a lot of information on plants and wild life which is very educative for children in terms of learning about their environment. Many a time she beautifully narrates about the different elements of nature like the sunset or the breeze which will help children appreciate the beauty of nature.
The story moves smoothly as they plunge through various tasks to fulfil their mission. The tension though is on the easier side which might feel a little less adventurous for older middle grade readers. The font size, age-appropriate vocabulary and easy to read text will cater to reluctant readers while the fantasy element will appeal to all readers. Hence it can be read independently by children of all ages though it could be less challenging for more advanced readers.
The dialogues however could be livened up and made creative at some parts of the story. The plot is not too detailed or deep as it is more of an easy read but again it is a matter of personal choice and the reading level of the readers. Middle grade readers who prefer deeper and complicated plots may want something more but overall it is a charming and entertaining fairy adventure.
The characters have been equated to different qualities which will make children understand the value of each virtue. The human element has been retained where the fairies try to overcome their frailties through the different qualities they possess. It also depicts how each of us is special in a way and can use our qualities to do good in the world. The author has provided a lot of subtle lessons and moral message throughout the story such as those of determination, courage, teamwork and gratitude. Children are very impressionable and this is the best time to teach them about values. Hence in today’s age this should be the main feature in children’s literature and this book has managed to cover that aspect remarkably well. Some of the beautiful lessons besides many others were about not misusing the powers one has and encouraging others.
The book ended with some interesting and fun facts about the squint, blue moon and chameleon lizards. I definitely recommend this book to children and middle grade readers in terms of entertainment and educative value.