Author: Magda M. Olchawska
Illustrated by: Joanna Gniady
Year published: 2010
Publisher: Mayan Books
Number of pages: 38
Recommended age: 4 to 8
Child Rating: ★★★★☆
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★☆
Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
Summary (from the author’s website): Mikolay is a little wizard. His best friend, Julia, is a witch. They attend public school together during the week. On weekends they are students at a school specializing in magic. When they are not in school, they go adventuring and exploring into challenging realms that often lead to surprise situations that include trouble and which they did not expect. But their creativity, courage and friendship provide them with plenty of strength to accomplish their tasks.
One day, Mikolay and Julia discover a hidden wardrobe in a secret office of Mikolay’s mummy. An amazing wonder occurs: the wardrobe turns out to be full of magical, gentle creatures who have singing voices. They desperately need Mikolay’s and Julia’s magical skills to help them.
What it’s about: This book is about Mikolay and Julia who are young witches in training. They use magic to get through a hole in the wall. The room is full of weird flowers, talking books, and a wardrobe. They hear singing coming out of the wardrobe. When they open it, they find fairies who are hiding from a monster that destroys everything in their way in the fairies’ forest. Mikolay and Julia try to help by making the machine turn into dust and making the people and bad dogs disappear.
What I liked and disliked about it: The best part of this book were the pictures. I liked the one of the monster best. The monster has a staple remover mouth and real eyes that look like a dog with spikes all over its back and tail. The picture is really funny. I also like the pictures of the flowers with faces and the mean dogs.
I like Julia and Mikolay because they are funny and they get to do magic. I wish I could do magic too because then I would turn myself into a fairy. I felt bad for the fairies. I would wish that the people that wanted to make the animals all sad wouldn’t do that anymore.
There is one part that didn’t make sense. How were the fairies in the wardrobe with both doors closed and how could they still breathe? I didn’t like how the bad people were making the fairies and the animals sad. I also didn’t like the bad dogs because they were being mean.
My bottom line: This book was ok. I think that little girls who are 5 would like this book. Boys might not like this book.
What it’s about: The story centres around two friends, Mikolay and Julia, whose mothers are witches and who attend a school for training in magic. One day, Mikolay and Julia are transported into a magical world with fanciful objects, animals, and plants. They discover fairies hiding from “monsters” who are destroying their magical land. The fairies enlist the help of the little wizards, Mikolay and Julia who must bravely stand up to the menace before the beautiful forest is completely demolished.
What I liked and disliked about it: The author takes the reader on a magical journey through the eyes of a young wizard and witch to a world filled with fantastical and mystical creatures. The amazing and eye-catching illustrations in the book cleverly use a combination of drawings and clips of photographs to create a stunning and outlandish feel to the book which is completely appropriate for the accompanying text.
The message underlying the story, concerning environmental and ecological issues that had me drawing comparisons to the Lorax, is an important one. My son was clearly touched by the impact of the monsters’ actions on the plants, animals, and other creatures. I think the message is really delivered home through the combined use of text and illustrations – very well done!
There is a certain darkness and an ominous sense of foreboding that I couldn’t shake as I read the book. I think very young and/or sensitive children may experience discomfort or even anxiety reading and looking at this book. That being said, we had also read Mikolay and Julia In the Attic before reading this one. Mikolay and Julia In the Attic is a much darker book with a story centering around the kidnapping of children and the message of not talking to strangers. I think my children were a bit freaked out after reading that one. Mikolay and Julia Meet the Fairies is not as dark.
That being said, after getting to know the author a bit better, I understand that the themes she covers in her books are ones dear to her heart. Ms. Olchawska is an award winning film-maker and author who is also an activist interested in social issues relevant to women and children. Her current project, Anna and Modern Day Slavery, explores the international human trafficking of young girls into the sex trade. For more information on this project, please visit the website.
One other problem that I had with the book is that I felt there should have been two more pages. I would have liked to see the effects of the magic spell incanted by Mikolay. So, one page describing what has happened to end the ecological destruction and one page to illustrate what has happened. We just all felt that the leap from the magic spell to back at home safe and sound was too abrupt.
My bottom line: I love the concept of this book for kids. It combines magic, fairies, unique illustrations, and a positive message. Based on my daughter’s reaction to this book (she read it with us but declined to review), the illustrations work in both its favor and as a hindrance. The illustrations are very eye-catching for younger readers, but they come across as too childish for older children (who, from what I gather, reach a certain age where they distance themselves from anything too child-like). That being said, I would recommend this book to both girls and boys between the ages of 4 and 8.
** The book Mikolay & Julia Meet the Fairies by M. Olchawska was provided free-of-charge by the author. **
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