Friday, August 23, 2013

The Never Girls: In a blink by Kiki Thorpe, illustrated by Jana Christy

I'm always torn by these company tie-ins. On the one hand, they tend to be really popular. Kids like easily recognizable characters, they like to continue the stories from tv that they love, they like the often pretty illustrations and slick marketing. On the other hand, the writing tends to be bland, if not downright painful, and the commercial elements make me feel squicky. I try to keep a balance in my collection and if I see something that I can recommend without wincing too much and I know it will circulate like crazy, I am on that series like that.

This series is a spin-off of the popular Disney Fairies/Tinker Bell franchise. Kate, Mia and Lainey are best friends, even if they have very different interests. Gabby, Mia's little sister, tags along. One day each of the girls hears or sees something magical ending in Gabby seeing an actual fairy, Prilla. Prilla accidentally "blinks" the four girls to Neverland and they have magical and sometimes frightening adventures before finding a way home...they hope. Or would they rather stay on in Neverland?

The plot is thin and the writing a bit wandering, but kids who are fans of Tinker Bell and the Disney Fairies will love the references to familiar magic places, fairies, and things. I also received a copy of the 3rd title in the series, A Dandelion Wish and the characters are more developed as the series continues. The combination of the girls and their everyday concerns and squabbles with the magical world of Neverland is done very well. I appreciated that Mia and Gabby throw in occasional Spanish, but their race isn't belabored and they get a primary part of the story, instead of being the token multicultural friend. I really love Jana Christy's sweet pictures and they're a perfect match for this series. They have a light, magical feel to them and combine the fantasy world of the fairies and the everyday world of the girls very well.

Verdict: There are several other fairy series that are better-written from a literary standpoint, and if we're comparing my preference would be for the Fairy Bell Sisters series by Margaret McNamara, but this will definitely be a high-circulation item and it nicely combines friendship and fantasy in a way that's not overly sweet or too Disneyfied. If you have Disney fairy fans, or kids looking for beginning chapters with a little bit of magic, this will be perfect.

ISBN: 9780736427944; Published January 2013 by Stepping Stone/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

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