What do you get when you cross a Newbery Honor winning author with a Disney franchise? The answer is, a book that has great potential, but isn’t quite as good as it could be. Don’t get me wrong; I like Gail Carson Levine’s Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg. It’s a sweet book with strong appeal for young girls. It has a beautiful story about friendship, sacrifice, and self-esteem, written at just the right level for young children. The illustrations are beautiful and will delight any fairy fan, young or old. But where it falls short is in the characters: they’re flat and undergo very little development. They are, in short, cartoon characters. I do recognize that is a book aimed at younger children, and thus the story and characters are expected to be less complicated. But even in a book for young children, there can be character development, and I didn’t find much here.
I don’t blame Levine for this. I think that she was constrained by the fact that Disney wanted to use the characters in their new fairies franchise, so they needed characters that were, essentially, caricatures. They needed stable, basically unchanging characters that they can use to create an unending line of additional books and merchandise. Each character is a portrait, a symbol: Rani, the empathetic water fairy or Vidia, the selfish fast-flying fairy. That explains why, for example, although Vidia has multiple opportunities for growth, she remains essentially unchanged at the end of the book.
I’m not a Disney hater; my husband and I enjoyed going to the Disney movies together long before we had a child. If this had been just a Disney book, I would have enjoyed it at the level it was written and thought no more of it. But I think the problem is, seeing Levine’s name on the cover created an unrealistic expectation. I forgot it was a Disney book, and expected literature.
Young children will love this book, especially those who love fairies in general and Tinker Bell specifically, and those who love the Disney Princesses franchise. Adults will enjoy sharing it with a child in their lives, as long they take it for what it was intended to be.