A strange mix of memoir come fantasy come boys own adventure, this story really shouldn’t work but somehow it does.
Starting out as a simple enough tale, it’s 1957 and a boy is sent off to stay with his grandparents in West Preston, things soon take a twist with the introduction of fairies in the backyard, bodgies and villains causing strife, evil intentions all around and six year old Barry and his Nan banding together to take the villains on. It’s like Enid Blyton meets Dan Dare, the Magic Faraway Tree set in down town Preston Victoria with a touch of small town corruption thrown in but strangely it all works.
At first I admit I was waiting for it all to be imagination, a young lad’s way of coping with his loneliness but soon enough I no longer cared what the reality was, I was drawn in, I was coaxed on by the boy within me who remembered his own fantasy life as a child, roaming the forests of country SA, looking for evil to conquer and maidens to rescue. With Jenny Lee’s wonderfully detailed and magical illustrations adding another layer to the adventure I succumbed to my inner child and cheered Barry and his Nan and the fairies on to victory.
Beautifully crafted and put together, the voice of young Barry rings true throughout and when the fairies are introduced so simply and logically you soon just accept that they are there, that they are part of the story and not a figment of his or his Nan’s imaginations. It’s in the details Dickins provides, the little moments of eggs on toast, of Pop’s shed and kicking the footy in the yard, the simple pleasures of making a newspaper kite, it’s these touches, these simple things, all adding to the story, to the aura of authenticity that Barry’s voice as narrator provides.
I’m still not sure who the actual market is for this book, a boys own adventure that features a fairy queen, a bunch of evil crows, crooked property developers and shrinking Nannas but even without vampires and zombies, I’m sure kids will love it, if they can just put their ipods and phones down long enough to let themselves slip into Barry’s world. And adults of a certain age will find themselves, as I did, remembering their youth, the adventures and the freedom of childhood.
Review by Campbell McInnes.
- Introducing Barry and the Fairies of Miller Street by Barry Dickins and Jenny Lee (bookclub.hardiegrant.com.au)
- Review: Barry and the Fairies of Miller Street | Sonia Nair (bookclub.hardiegrant.com.au)
- Review: Barry and the Fairies | Kirsty Kearney (bookclub.hardiegrant.com.au)
- Review: Barry and the Fairies | Jo Canham (bookclub.hardiegrant.com.au)