Monday, December 16, 2019

Fumbling Through Fantasy: No Flying in the House by Betty Brock (1970)

Annabel Tippens is a seemingly ordinary little girl who has been entrusted to the care of an extraordinary three-inch-tall dog named Gloria who can talk and perform amazing tricks. When Annabel is three, Gloria arranges for them to stay with Mrs. Vancourt, a wealthy woman who is enamored of Gloria's exceptional abilities and willing to take on the child in order to keep the dog. Annabel ages normally for a time, but when she is six, she begins to have mysterious visits from a golden cat with emerald eyes who implies that Annabel might not be so ordinary after all. Suddenly, Annabel finds herself wondering what actually happened to her parents, who Gloria might actually be, and whether she herself might have magical capabilities.

I read this aloud to my older two daughters, ages 4 and 6, and they were just the right audience. They immediately loved both Annabel and Gloria, and they were both surprised and pleased each time a new element of magic appeared in the story. Whereas I saw the twist ending coming from miles off, they are still new enough to fantasy books that they were taken totally by surprise and were clearly thrilled by how everything came together. The story also had just the right level of suspense, which kept them begging for just one more chapter but also prevented anyone (and my four-year-old, especially) from feeling too scared.

This is a gentle and charming story and it hit the same sweet spot for us as Ruth Chew's What the Witch Left and Hilda van Stockum's King Oberon's Forest.  It's a perfect family read-aloud for preschoolers on up, but would also be an excellent independent reading choice for readers up to about fourth grade.

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