I review great read aloud books for kids all the time, but typically they're in the picture book genre, rather than middle grade fiction or something else. I don't really know why that is, I guess I just come across more picture books to rave about for read alouds than books for the older kiddos...this title though, definitely a nice middle grade fiction read aloud. Suzanne Selfors, a new-to-me author, has come up with a charming story that will be great to read as a family.
Fortune's Magic Farm is the story of ten-year-old Isabelle, a girl living in Runny Cove where the sun never shines, everything is gray, and it's always so wet that mold grows everywhere (even on the people of Runny Cove). Residing in a boarding house with her grandmother, Isabelle is forced to labor at the only place of employment in town, the umbrella factory, where she is overworked and underpaid.
When Isabelle finds an apple, a very rare item to see in Runny Cove, and then hears that several of her friends found apples as well, she knows something strange is happening. A mysterious boy arrives to tell her that she is needed at Fortune's Farm, across the ocean, and Isabelle, finally seeing a chance to escape Runny Cove, goes with him to what she finds is the most glorious place in the whole world. Trees and animals and sunshine and rainbows and happiness are in abundance at Fortune's Farm and Isabelle is to play a very important role in maintaining that level of wonder.
What she feels she needs to do is go back and rescue her friends from Runny Cove and from the terrible umbrella factory, where they too are overworked and underpaid. She is told, however, that no one can ever know of Fortune's Magic Farm, that she must never tell. Isabelle must find a way to save her friends and protect the place she has grown to love so much.
There is SUCH description in this book! Selfors has a knack for helping the reader to truly picture what she is describing...the nasty umbrella factory, the moss covered floor in Isabelle's room at the boarding house, and the wonderful landscape of the farm. The description makes this an awesome choice to read aloud, as well as the fun, quirky, and sometimes silly plot. It will make adults cock their heads and be confused as to whether it's ridiculous or great, but kids are going to love Isabelle's story.
My one complaint? The cover and illustrations. The cover lends absolutely nothing to the story. Yes, all the elements are there...an umbrella with light underneath, a gray world outside it, but SO much could have been done to invite the reader into this magical story and it fell short. It's also very "girl-oriented." Boys are going to love this story too, but I don't see them readily picking it up off the shelf. The illustrations, though few, are the same. All done in black and white, which for this particular story, was sad. I think black and white drawings are a great idea for the beginning of the book, but once Isabelle makes it to Fortune's Farm, color would have really accompanied the plot well.
Cover and illustrations are just a small part of this lovely little book that I enjoyed very much. A great choice for libraries and for parents wanting a fabulous read aloud for their kids.
To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.
Fortune's Magic Farm
Middle Grade fiction