cover image The Gold Dust Letters

The Gold Dust Letters

Janet Taylor Lisle, Janey Taylor Lisle. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (116pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06830-4

Those who savored the essentially realistic brand of enchantment found in Afternoon of the Elves will quickly become enamored of this equally poignant novel. Angela Harrall ``takes an interest in magic . . . the real magic that is present at unexplainable happenings.'' When she sends a letter to her fairy godmother, she is more intrigued than disbelieving upon receiving a reply from an aging sprite named Pilaria. As correspondence between the worlds continues (in the form of notes placed on the mantelpiece), it becomes clear that Pilaria's hardships in an invisible kingdom echo Angela's troubles at home with parents on the brink of divorce. Aided by two vivacious friends, Poco and Georgina, Angela devises a scheme to find out Pilaria's identity. The girls' investigation of magic culminates with a wondrous tea party where secrets are shared and most mysteries are solved. The logical explanations attributed to unconventional happenings do not hinder the spellbinding quality of this fanciful tale. While accurately depicting the pain within a troubled family, Lisle celebrates the imagination's power to help ease wounds. As heartwarming as it is wrenching, her deft narrative transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. Ages 8-10. (Apr.)