Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle, copyright 1989.
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Science Fiction / Relationships
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Nostalgia
There aren’t a lot of books from my childhood that I can recall being particularly crazy about, but this is one that has long stuck out in my mind. Afternoon of the Elves was a Newbery Honor Book in 1990 and is written by the author of the Investigators of the Unknown series.
Hillary is nine-years-old and has lots of friends. She lives in a little house on a quiet street and her Dad keeps their yard beautifully manicured. Hillary thinks this is fine at first, but, as she soon discovers, a well kept yard does not provide the correct conditions for elves. In the house behind Hillary’s lives Sara-Kate who, two years older than Hillary, dresses like a ragamuffin and keeps to herself. Oh, and one other thing, her yard is a complete dump. Overgrown and trash strewn it is the talk of the neighbourhood and, as it happens, perfect for the habitation of elves. One day Hillary receives a surprise invitation from Sara-Kate to come over and play. In her yard, Sara-Kate reveals to Hillary the mysterious little village and its unseen inhabitants. Day after day Hillary returns to Sara-Kate’s yard to help make repairs to the village. Soon, however, Hillary begins to notice some strange goings-on: why does Sara-Kate have so many elfish features and why isn’t Hillary ever allowed inside of Sara-Kate’s house?
“By morning it was clear that the magic of Sara-Kate’s elves must be real, for while Hillary slept, it crept, mysterious and cat-like as ever, out of the Connolly’s backyard, up the hill and through the half-opened window of Hillary’s bedroom. There she awoke beneath its spell shortly after dawn and immediately was seized by a mad desire to run down to Sara-Kate’s yard in her nightgown.” Afternoon of the Elves, page 9.
Ok, so it’s not quite as wonderful as I remember, but I am sure my nine-year-old self would still think it was a favourite. It’s quite funny to compare what I remember the book being about to what it is actually about. All I remember about the story is that there was an awesome elf village with a Ferris wheel and neat little houses. That was all that I got out of the book when I was nine. Now I read the story and can appreciate what it is really about, a young girl, in need of a friend, but desperate to keep her privacy. Terrified of exposing what goes on behind the locked doors and closed blinds of her home, Sara-Kate tries to make everyone think she is a bit crazy so they will always be just a little bit afraid of her and won’t ask too many questions.
I think there is better juvenile fiction out there, but this is certainly not a bad read that can introduce kids to the fragility of friendships and the importance of trying to see people for who they are instead of what they seem to be.
RATING: Not Baaaaaaahd