By Doreen Cronin, illustrated by David Small. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.
Whoever heard of a mud fairy? In a beautiful kingdom made of glass, Bloom is a very important fairy because she can keep the cracks repaired. She is so good at this work that everyone begins to take her for granted. And they pay too much attention to her muddy shoes, dirty teeth, and beetles in her wings.
Unappreciated, she retreats to the forest, a favorite place. Years pass and the kingdom is falling apart. It is “held together by duct tape, glue, and peasants.” Desperate, first the king, and then the queen, venture into the forest to find Bloom. Each sees her, but cannot comprehend her message, which seems to involve mud.
Finally, they send Genevieve, an ordinary girl with a very small voice, into the forest. She had never been allowed to get her hands dirty because her only task was to clean the queen’s crystal sugar spoon. Bloom teaches her how to make bricks out of mud. Amazed by this accomplishment, Genevieve returns to the crumbling kingdom and begins to rebuild. Her voice is now much firmer. Everyone catches on to making and using bricks, and they all pitch in to help. The kingdom saved, the ordinary girl is honored with a parade. The king is waving a trowel, the queen is waving a trowel, and every peasant is waving a trowel.
This is a book about girl power. “There is no such thing as an ordinary girl.” But the tale also promotes the power of paying attention, listening, having a mind open to new ideas, and working cooperatively. These are themes available to all ages and genders. It should be noted, however, that there are only white people depicted.
Bloom is a lighthearted tale, written with different-sized type that leaps off the pages. David Small’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are full of motion and good cheer. Many details lead one to wish for another look. This story would best be shared with one or two children at a time. Although the themes of self-confidence, being willing to get your hands dirty, and working in cooperation with others are loved by Friends, consider this book for a gift rather than a group lesson.