The Fairy Ring, or Elsie and Frances Fool the Word (Candlewick, March 2012) is the true story of the girls behind the famous Cottingley Fairy Photographs. Frances (photo below) truly believed in fairies. Her cousin Elsie (on book cover) painted some watercolor pictures of fairies, cut them out, and stuck them to branches with hatpins.
They never meant to fool the world. They only took the pictures so the grownups would stop teasing.
How were they supposed to know their “fairy” photographs
would one day fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?
And who would have dreamed that the man who created Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective, also believed (most ardently) in fairies?
Praise for The Fairy Ring
- Booklist Editors’ Choice, Best Children’s Non-fiction 2012
- Horn Book Fanfare 2012
- Betsy Bird’s 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2012
- Society of Midland Authors Award 2013, Best Children’s Non-Fiction
- A Junior Library Guild selection
“This is well-written nonfiction that reads like a novel; former fans and secret believers of fairy stories will thoroughly enjoy this account of how two girls fooled the world.”
Starred Review, School Library Journal
“From the bottle-green cover showing Elsie dreamily regarding a fairy to the book’s creamy pages and art-nouveau lettering, The Fairy Ring is as delightful to hold as it is captivating to read.”
“Frances Griffiths is nine in 1917, the year she goes to live in Cottingley, England. There she strikes up a steadfast friendship with her 15-year-old cousin, Elsie, a spirited high-school dropout whose artistic aspirations are being squashed by desultory factory jobs. One day, on a lark, the girls stroll down to the waterfall behind the house, mount some of Elsie’s fairy paintings to sticks, and pose with them for a few pictures. The resulting sequence of events changes their lives forever: the random discovery of the photos by Theosophists (an organization that believes in nature spirits), the validation of authenticity by photo experts, and the enthusiasm of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After all, how could two working-class country girls pull off a hoax this convincing? Losure’s elegant and charmingly formal prose (all the men are “Mr.”) makes palpable the girls’ loss of control as their fame spirals ever wider. The communicable hysteria has a Salem Witch–like feel: so many people want to believe, none more tragically than Doyle. Frances and Elsie keep their secret until they are elderly, but their lie is not based in foolery—for them, it is the bond of friendship that is magical. The photos themselves are included and, like the astonishing true story, they are simultaneously silly and haunting.”
Daniel Kraus in a Starred Review from Booklist (American Library Association)
“An intriguing glimpse into a photo-doctoring scandal well before the advent of Photoshop.”
“The remarkable, true story of a fairy hoax successfully perpetrated by two young girls in the early 1900s offers a fascinating examination of human nature.”
Listen to All Things Fairy. Minnesota Public Radio’s Euan Kerr talks to Mary Losure.
(Photos of Elsie and Frances courtesy of Elsie’s son, Glenn Hill. Used by permission.)