|Blossom: A Fairy Story by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. |
First published by A. & C. Black, Ltd., London, 1928.
This edition published by Angus & Robertson Publishers, U.K. and Australia, 1987.
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite is another one of those great Golden Age illustrators. An Aussie, she specialized in fairy art for children's books. I've admired her work via the internet for years, but I hadn't held an actual book in my hands, until now. Thank you, library!
Blossom: A Fairy Story was first published in 1928. It's one of those gentle, old-fashioned fantasies, that could easily have been written any time between the late Victorian era and the first half of the twentieth century. I apologize for the poor photo quality, but I hope you can get some sense of how beautiful this book is.
It's about a little girl named Blossom.
When we first meet Blossom, she is living with her mother in a London slum. Despite her ragged clothes and poor surroundings, Blossom is happy. Her mother loves all things beautiful, and together they stare at shop windows, daydreaming about owning fine things, and they love their upper-floor view of the skies.
They also frequent Kensington Gardens. Blossom's mother has told her all about the statue of Peter Pan, and one day, as Blossom is lolling around the statue, wondering if fairies are real, an actual fairy appears. Her name is Maia, and she tells Blossom she will see her again someday. She can even call her on the "blue convolvulus telephone -- Primrose Path 00000."
Then Blossom's mother dies, and the poor little girl is sent to the Orphanage.
The Orphanage is a lonely place for Blossom. No one wants to hear about fairies, but everyone expects her to learn her multiplication tables. Her only friends are two-year-old twins, Simon and Sarah, and the black cat, Samuel. After a particularly bad day, Blossom and Samuel decide to run away to the country, to find the fairies. They sneak out that night, and find themselves in a fairy wood, where they meet a rabbit named George and a little boy named Patrick.
From there, most realism departs. Patrick hides Blossom away at his little play cottage, and with the help of the fairies, she leads a very comfortable existence. Besides Patrick, only the "least important" gardener knows she is there.
As you can imagine, living among fairies is a wondrous thing. The animals in the enchanted wood can speak - even Samuel the cat!
There are more wonderful beings to meet. Samuel takes Patrick and Blossom on a magical overnight ride to a valley filled with all the cats of the world. A flock of birds swoop in overhead. No, wait - not birds. Witches! The witches are the cats' fairies, but they are shy around humans and disappear when Patrick sneezes.
Patrick's family garden is haunted by the ghosts of all those who came before him. Blossom meets his great-grandmama, Felicia, who appears as a little girl. She tells Blossom that she grew up to bear eight children and died an old lady, but because inside she never changed from a happy, naughty little girl, when she passed, that little girl jumped out. She even plays with her own children in child form.
One day, Patrick tells Blossom that their world is about to change. He is to be sent to boarding school, and she will be alone with the animals and fairies. (Remember, his parents and governess have no idea she is there.) Blossom longs for another human, however, and remembers little Simon and Sarah, back at the Orphanage. With the fairies' assistance, the children sneak into the Orphanage and kidnap the twins.
Blossom is still sad, understanding how much everything will change with Patrick away. Even Patrick
is afraid he will be too ashamed of his female friend and the fairies to ever tell anyone at school. Maia shows Blossom the Memory Pool in the woods, where all good memories are stored. She can go there anytime, and remember everything happy.
The book ends with Christmas coming, just around the corner, which means a visit from Patrick. It ends with him calling, "Blossom! Blossom!" No, he has not forgotten his friend in the little cottage.
Blossom is such a strange, dreamy little story. I suppose it could be taken literally, but at times, you feel it's more about growing up and imaginary friends.
Who is imaginary, though? Blossom or Patrick?
The stamp inside our library copy marks this one as an import, but there are inexpensive used copies available online. If you're a fairy fan, or love old-fashioned children's literature, seek it out!
Oh, and guess what? Mr. B started putting together stuff for a new fairy playhouse today... Hope to have more to share soon!
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