I am a classic judge-a-book-by-its-cover-er, and it's been burning me lately. I picked up this one grownup book because it had a woman in a print dress holding a giant handgun on the cover, and I figured it'd be like that funny movie where Sissy Spacek shoots her husband. I picked up Now Is the Time for Running because it has a kid with a soccer ball on the cover, and I don't read enough sports novels. Holy hell, is that book not a sports novel.
I did not pick up Small Persons With Wings by Ellen Booraem for kind of a long time, because it has a girl's cute feet standing pigeon-toed on the cover, and that middle-grade faux awkwardness is something that sets my teeth on edge.
Also wrong about that one.
Mellie, the main character in Small Persons with Wings, is not faux awkward. She is "not-skinny," and "not-blonde," the only child of two artists/shop teachers, and she has been teased mercilessly since kindergarten for telling her class about the fairy in her bedroom. Since then, she's cultivated a relentlessly intellectual, systematic view of the world that has further isolated her from her peers.
We'd feel pretty terrible for Mellie, but she is a genuinely resilient kid. She has made herself as comfortable in her isolation as possible, and seems to have an inkling that things will get better once she is away from Mean Janine and Boorish Benny.
Which happens! All of a sudden, Mellie's estranged grandfather has died, leaving Mellie's dad a New England roadhouse, and they're moving! Say bye-bye to Mean Janine! Mellie can finally forget all about the fairy in her past.
Or, as one might expect, not.
Ellen Booraem does a wonderful job describing the decrepit inn and pub, the fairies that infest it, and especially the transformations that result from the fairies' shallow and kind of dimwitted intervention. In her hands, the Parvi Pellati (Latin for "small winged things") are not merely small persons with wings, but are truly a different species, and watching Mellie, her parents, and her new friend Timmo navigate interspecies relations is extremely entertaining.
Tightly plotted and populated with great original characters, this book is for kids who like reading about real life and relationships - with just a little glitter on top.