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My daughter is at that age where she adores fairies, magic, cute furry animals, and dragons as much as she also loves candy! Knowing this and being VERY picky about what she reads, I recalled the most perfect book in the world for her to read. When I was about seven, I came across this book in a huge used bookstore my family used to frequent, and along with the Phantom Tollbooth, reread it again, and again, and again until it fell apart. Luckily, this book is enjoying a reprint due to the sheer volume of requests for the book, so my daughter has also now had the pleasure of reading it herself with a robust copy. I am so glad I remembered this book, and ordered the reprint, as she has enjoyed it every as much as I did when I was her age, and talks about it a lot. Indeed, she has it on her to be reread pile, which gets selected from after reading a new book first!
The story begins with a tiny dog named Gloria approaching a middle aged woman, Mrs Vancourt, in a wealthy neighbourhood and performing tricks. Mrs Vancourt collects china animals, especially of the mechanical variety, and is amazed to see a dog as small as a miniature sized figurine, doing such amazing feats. She simply MUST have the dog when she discovers it can actually speak real words and hold conversations as well. The dog knows this, and it is why it has approached this particular woman, for the dog is named Gloria, and she has a mission. She must find a home for her three year old charge, an adorable blonde waif named Annabel Tippens. Annabel and Gloria are both accepted into the household with great affection, and time moves on.
Gloria has charge of Annabel, and teaches her many things. The day however arrives when Annabel is old enough for school, and is sent for lessons, despite Gloria's misgivings. Her fears seem unusual and unfounded, and Annabel enjoys learning new things and making new friends. It is not at school however that Gloria has cause to worry.....no, its at home. For in the china cabinet, a new figurine has appeared: a tiny cat, named Belinda. She makes it known to Annabel that she too can speak, and that Gloria has kept a secret from her. "Kiss your elbow," she tells Annabel. "If you can kiss your elbow, you are a fairy."
The purpose of Gloria's revelation, the reason for the silence of Gloria, and the tragic consequences of young Annabel's decision to not listen to her loving mentor and follow Belinda form the backbone of the story. There is excitement, as Annabel learns she is no ordinary child, and there is sadness as Gloria becomes an actual china figurine, and there is joy, as the happy ending reveals all. It is a book for every little child who has ever pretended to be a fairy, and fantasised about flying about the house, and its underlying message about loyalty, trust, and what love is, is one that does not go amiss.
Betty Brock's prose is very readable, and uses a reading vocabulary that schools place at ages 9-12. My daughter is a very competent reader, however, and at 6 1/2 she has not struggled one bit. If your child is not yet that proficient, it makes a very enjoyable book to share one chapter at a time for read aloud time, as the chapters are packed with entertainment, but not overly long. The book itself is not too long either, being only 144 pages, and there are lovely pen and ink illustrations by Wallace Tripp scattered throughout the book. The charming illustrations bring the story to life and enhance the reading pleasure, rather than help replace it. This is one of those books that hooks a young reader and makes them love books, with the storyline forever indelibly etched into their memory. A rare feat, and too good an opportunity to miss. Priced at just £2.95 new, there is no reason to, either.
One day a tiny white talking dog appears before Mrs Vancourt, a rich dowager. The dog is Gloria, and she is looking for a home for her young companion, Annabel. How did a dog happen to be raising a child and where were her parents?