Wanted: Beautiful Fairy Picture Books

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 5, 2014

Flower Fairies Magical Doors: Discover the Doors to Fairyopolis by Cicely Mary Barker (Frederick Warne & Co)

I was working in the back room when the voice of Flying Pig bookseller Sandy floated in from the front desk. “You know what’s hard to find that you’d think there would be a lot of?” she asked.  “Beautiful fairy storybooks, the kind I would have loved and lost myself in as a child.”
You’d think this would be a flooded field, but actually, most of the gorgeous fairy picture books we used to carry have now gone out of print.
There are some perennial fairy favorites, of course. Night Fairy is lovely, but it’s a chapter book intended for slightly older readers. The fairy books by Tracy Kane (Fairy Houses, etc.are terrific but feature structures more than fairies. The Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies books (especially the original ones) are so beautiful — but aren’t storybooks, as is also the case with David Ellwand’s glorious Fairie-ality, and a whole slew of fairy sticker and activity books. Where are the fairy adventures?
There have been fairy books with oddly creepy illustrations, and fairy stories that are charming and cute (Bob Graham’s April and Esme Tooth Fairies). There are lots of chapter books about fairies—hello, Daisy Meadows; hello, Disney—but it’s hard to find magical picture books with actual stories about fairies featuring the kinds of illustrations that enchant little kids and invite elaborate daydreams.
Are there fairy stories we aren’t thinking of? Publishing folks, are there any on your upcoming lists?

23 thoughts on “Wanted: Beautiful Fairy Picture Books

  1. Wendy Dean

    We have just what you are looking for! Launching January 1, 2014 is Candy Grant’s “A Fairy Tale”. Illustrated by Rebecca Jordan-Glum, whose style will deliver exactly what you describe. Our company and the author were having similar feelings and decided we would do something about it. We would love to send you a sneak peek of one of the faries and hear what you think!

  2. Ellie Miller

    Just a suggestion from a former book seller who currently does a lot of DTP including making extensive use of fantasy graphics. Have you checked out Dover Publications recently? They tend to republish reasonably-priced facsimile editions of fairy tales and fairy-related material with gorgeous original artwork.

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Hi, Ellie. Yes, Dover has many pretty fairy books, but they are primarily sticker and activity and coloring books, not stories. It’s really hard to find GORGEOUS books about fairies that are actually stories!

    1. Maria

      Here’s one for you: UNI THE UNICORN by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager.
      Uni is the only unicorn who believes that little girls are REAL.
      coming from Random House this August 26, 2014

  3. Carol B. Chittenden

    I’ve heard the same comment more than once at Eight Cousins. There IS a surplus of klunky, unattractive fairies (and princesses) presumably aimed at helping unattractive little girls identify with something other than Barbie with wings/tiaras. But we piglets (even we aging ones) need a little escape from our earthbound reality at times.

    1. Lee

      Carol, don’t say “unattractive little girls”! All little girls can learn to be attractive, and should certainly be able to identify with something beyond Barbie and tiaras, at least occasionally. I know you didn’t mean to phrase your comment quite that way!

  4. Pauline

    Do you think it is, in part, due to the requirement that picture books need to be under 500 words now? After all, establishing a separate reality that is a magical realm probably takes a few more words then a story more grounded in every day reality. I wonder how many words were in the gorgeous fairy picture books that are now out of print?

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Pauline, I think that the art can accomplish so much world-building that a story with enchanting illustrations featuring fairies needn’t be any lengthier than an average picture book. I also think the pendulum will swing back toward appreciating stories that are longer than 500 words. We still sell loads of Bill Peet books, for instance, and other classics that are wordy! And I find that even now, popular picture book authors who made their names with low-word-count picture books have sneaked up the word count on sequels. : )

  5. Serena

    A Fairy Went a-Marketing (9780140547511) is one I absolutely adored as a child, and according to B&T, it’s still in print and readily available.

  6. Sharon Thackston

    “Danskin: Tales of a Fairy” by Deborah Carney is a lovely book, if somewhat hard to categorize. Twice the length of an average picture book, but not quite a chapter book. But still lovely. 🙂

  7. Elspeth

    Hi! Theres a beautiful book called “Backyard Faeries” by Phoebe Waller.
    Also when I was a kid I adored all the Molly Brett illustrated books– possibly my favorite faerie illustrations of all time.

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Yes! Since I wrote that blog post, there have been some lovely fairy books (such as A Natural History of Fairies by Emily Hawkins and Jessica Roux). I agree with you that Backyard Fairies is wonderful and just shared it with a child at the store yesterday! I’ll explore the Molly Brett books – thanks for the recommendation.


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