Afternoon of the Elves

by Janet Taylor Lisle

     Hillary is intrigued when the girl who lives in the house behind her shows her tiny little cottages built of leaves and twigs. Sara-Kate tells her in whispers they were built by elves, and soon has Hillary wrapped into the imaginary world of the elf village. The other kids at school scorn the idea, and talk unkindly about Sara-Kate- her worn clothes, thin appearance and wild temper. Hillary listens uneasily to their warnings to stay away from Sara-Kate, but she wants to go back and see the elf village again, so slowly the two become friends. She\’s never invited inside Sara-Kate\’s house though, and never sees any lights on either, not even after dark. When Sara-Kate stops coming to school, Hillary worries something has happened and screws up her courage to knock on the door of the silent house. She\’s shocked to find that some of her friend\’s stories had a scrap of truth- Sara-Kate is in a rather desperate situation, but Hillary doesn\’t want to betray her friend by seeking help. She tries to offer some assistance herself, even though this means doing things she knows is wrong- stealing and lying to her parents. Soon an adult steps into the situation though, and then everything changes very quickly.

This story was compelling and in the end, rather sad. It\’s another that I read in one sitting, quite unable to put it down. While the exact nature of illness in Sara-Kate\’s household was never revealed, the hints are clear enough. More interesting is how completely Sara-Kate invented the details of the elf world for Hillary, drawing her back day after day with the curiosity and hope the magic would actually be real- all the while hiding her real difficulties. She left a mark on Hillary, too- who always looked more closely at things afterwards, who noticed tiny details others might skip over. Though it was just secondary material, I also liked the bits about her father\’s garden, the work he did there and how he missed it during the cold winter months. It was nice that Hillary found a way in the end, to conserve the elf village the two girls had worked so painstakingly on. And that she recognized the greatest lesson she learned from their strange friendship- that other people\’s reality might not be the same as yours, that you have to work hard and put aside your assumptions to truly see things from another\’s point of view. 

Rating: 4/5                       122 pages, 1989
anybody else?

6 Responses

  1. It was a very good read even for me approaching it as an adult for the first time. I think it's one of those that would hold up to a re-read years later.

  2. Dear Jeane,
    Thanks so much for your well-written and perceptive review of my book Afternoon of the Elves. It’s certainly true that the story reads differently when experienced as a child than it does when adults look into its pages. I will say, however, that from the author’s point of view, Sara-Kate’s elves are very much alive in the story, and I still can’t be sure that lonely girl wasn’t an elf herself.
    Janet Taylor Lisle

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Lisle, for stopping by to comment! I really did enjoy your book. Wish I had found it when I was grade-school age myself.

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