The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook

This is a short fantasy novel about a young boy, Asa, who discovers a drowned fairy creature in a pond the day after a huge storm wrecks his home town.

Asa does not have to go to school because of the effects of the storm, and spends his free time tracking down answers about what the creatures are and eventually the creatures themselves.

This book is perfect for readers who have moved on from picture books, but who are not yet ready for lengthy novels. The chapters are short and undemanding. There are plenty of illustrations, which are beautifully drawn by the author, and the story moves along at a fairly snappy pace.  It has all the looks of a proper novel, without all the demands a proper novel will make.

I note that children are very conscious of wanting to pick ‘real’ or ‘hard’ looking books when they reach this stage in their reading career, and often they struggle because they are not ready for them.  This would make the perfect compromise.  It might also help that it has been written by Mackenzie Crook who is rather more famous as an actor than an author and who has been in three of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  Knowing this might mean a child is more willing to take a risk with a book like this.

I had hoped this book would be like the excellent Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony Di Terlizzi.  It shares many of the same production qualities. The font types are similar, as are the detailed and lovely drawings.

Sadly, in this case, the story is not up to much.  The plot is full of holes, which an enthusiastic young reader might not notice, but a seasoned adult reader might struggle with.  The plotting is rather uneven which makes it quite flat when it should be tense. There are also problems with some of the sentences being poorly constructed and punctuated, which meant that I had to reread some pages myself just to be sure I had understood.

It may be that this will not matter to a younger reader, and certainly the book is short enough, and full of adventure enough for a child to whiz through it quite satisfactorily.

It would work for both boys and girls, because although the story is about fairy creatures, the author is very clear that these are sprites, not fairies, and they have certain dangerous qualities that will appeal to boys.  Also, 12 year old Asa’s adventures on his own with his sprite catching equipment are suitably adventurous for it to appeal to boys.  I would recommend it for children aged between eight and twelve.