Review Blog

Jun 06 2013

The little fairy sister by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenbry Outhwaite

cover image

National Library of Australia, 2013 (A. & C. Black, London, 1929) ISBN 9780642277725
(Age: 7-adult) Warmly recommended. Picture book, Australian Fairy Tales. Nostalgia. It is always astonishing to open a book that has been reprinted from long ago, and see that font and be transported back to your own childhood where books were few, borrowed from the local library or given at Christmas.
In my grandmother's cabinet was this book, and I would take it out and carefully read it as a child. The story has long been forgotten but not that font.
In reprinting this book, from the Marcie Muir collection at the National Library, a new generation will be introduced to these stories first published in 1929. Marcie Muir, an avid collector and bibliographer of Australian books for children, accumulated over 7000 books, including 86 editions of Norman Lindsay's The magic pudding and this collection was acquired by the National Library after her death in 2007. An introduction by Stephanie Owen Reader relates a brief history of the Outhwaites, particularly Ida and her place in the history of Australian children's literature.
The little fairy sister introduces us to a young girl, Bridget, whose sister, Nancy, has died. She longs to see her again in the Country of the Fairies where she resides. When Mother and Father are going out for the afternoon, they leave Bridget sleeping in her hammock under the tree. She hears Nancy's voice and the two go off into the Country of the Fairies, until she wakes. While there she meets many of her sister's companions, Lizard, Kookaburra, Merman and Tree-man. This delicate, ethereal story and its accompanying enchanting illustrations, will entice new readers of the genre, easily outdoing many of the generic fairy stories finding their way onto the market. That it was written so long ago and included Australian animals is to be noted, as this was a time when all things Australian were cherished, but this movement it seems gave way to all things American as the latter half of the twentieth century ensued.
Fran Knight

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