The Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington by Brian & Wendy Froud (review)

pressedfairy_froud_abramsbksFairies are real!  That’s what Maddi learns as she discovers the legacy of her Cottington ancestors. Madeline Cottington is a 17 year old American girl, whose British father decides to move their family back to England.  Since she’s temporarily without a computer, she uses a journal to record her thoughts and feelings as the spots she sees out of the corner of her eye slowly become more plentiful and defined.

There was a train at 7:00 am, and I’m on it writing this.  It’s like talking to myself, only people don’t think you’re crazy when you’re just writing.  I’m beginning to see why people used to write journals a lot.  It’s like tweeting all the time. (Maddi, June 5 journal entry)

When Maddi ventures to the Cottington’s estate, it is there that she discovers the Cottington Archives containing artifacts of her ancestors, particularly the twins Angelina (Jelly) and Quentin (Tinny) Cottington.  Dating from just after World War I, their notes and pictures reveal Jelly to have been obsessed with pressing fairies and Tinny, a shell shocked veteran, with inventing contraptions to study stains that he believed to be left by them.

Maddi soon discovers the joy of pressing fairies.  The small ones enjoy the attention of being pressed, but what do the others want, the larger ones like the man and woman seen standing at the edge of the forest.  The woods are forbidding, the beehive shaped hut is mysterious, and who is calling Maddi’s name?

They wanted me to come straight in and be with them.  “Always”–that’s the word I kept hearing, or maybe “all ways.”  I hope it was a dream. (Maddy, journal entry “next day”)

Like Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, a copy of which I owned in the early 1990’s and am not sure where it has gone, this is a mix of photos, ephemera, and fabulous illustrations.  The psychic imprints (pressings) of fairies are whimsical, ranging from the expected girl with wings and pointy ears to the nearly goblinesque, bringing to mind other work by Brian Froud (especially for those of us who might have an inordinate amount of affection for movies such as Labyrinth, just as an example).  The illustrations and images are well suited to the text by Wendy Froud, consisting of her delightful forward, Maddi’s journal entries (both ‘handwritten’ and typed), the notes between Jelly and Tinny, and even a letter from THE Lady Cottington.  In retrospect, the forward might even be my favorite part of the book’s text.

I had dedicated my professional career to the pursuit of the existence of fairies.  Was it possible I had now found it?  I lay for days in the dark space of my caravan, feverish, often singing loudly in a falsetto voice the old songs of Marie Lloyd. (Wendy Froud, foreward)

This book holds great appeal for those who enjoy the eccentric and fantastic world of the Frouds and the aesthetics of fey and somewhat steampunk worlds.  While I do enjoy the photographs that are included, and in particular their allusions to the original photographs of the “Cottingley fairies,” the majority of those depicting the early 1900’s feel too similar to those of the modern Maddi.  This does not, however, detract from the amusement they provide.

This is a quick, enjoyable read.  The book itself is a hardback large picture-book size, around 9″x12″ and looks to be about 1/2″ thick, with marbled end-papers.  The inside pages are glossy and a nice thickness.  There are two envelopes on the inside back cover with a related item in each, one of which is a temporary tattoo.

4.5 stars. Recommended. Reading the previous, related books is not a prerequisite, but you may very well find yourself wanting to read them all afterward.

There are a few things included in this book that I’ll be running by my sister before sharing it with M.C., my middle grade reading buddy/13 year old niece who loves art and stories of fairies:  the small amount of swearing (WTF, “F. this.,” and damn), a teen running away, trusting strangers, stealing, and self-tattooing, bare girl fairy tushies and sort of ken-doll-like males that appear to be nude. 


The Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington, written by Wendy Froud, Brian Froud illustrator | Abrams Books, Sept. 27, 2016 | 96pgs, hardcover | ISBN:9781419720857

This review refers to a finished copy won in a First-Reads giveaway on GoodReads, from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Available for pre-order at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and other retailers.  Also available in e-book.

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