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Read about 1917 fairy hoax in library’s book review

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 11:50 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 12:29 p.m. CST

Book Review of the Week

by Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter

It is hard for us to imagine now, in an era when Photoshop can make any photo look flawless, but in 1917 two girls in Cottingley, England, convinced the world that fairies were real with simple paper cutouts placed in photographs, as told by Mary Losure in “The Fair Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World.”

The girls did not set out to fool the world. Elsie, at age 15, was quite the artist and painted lovely cutouts and put them in the photograph because the adults in the family were teasing Frances, age 9, for saying that she saw fairies in the woods. Elsie borrowed her uncle’s box-plate camera and went into the woods with the paper cut-outs attached to hatpins with gum and posed Frances with the “fairies.” When the photograph was developed, it looked very real by early 1900s standards.

Elsie swore Frances to secrecy about how the fairies appeared in the photographs. The photos were put in a drawer and forgotten for three years, but Elsie’s mother went to a meeting of Theophosists and the lecture was about nature spirits. Afterwards, she told someone at the meeting that her daughter had taken a photograph of real fairies and later brought the photos to them. The photographs then fell into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and he declared in “The Strand” magazine that they were real, and suddenly the story went viral, so to say in our 21st Century terms.

It is fascinating to see how Elsie decides not to tell the truth about the photographs, and how the events unfold. Eventually, as adults, the truth about the photographs comes out, but what fun to travel into the world of Elsie and Frances one beautiful summer in 1917 and think how two girls with vivid imaginations, beautifully drawn paper cut-outs and a box-plate camera end up convincing people that fairies are real. This is a wonderful book for anyone ages 10 and up to read, and it can be found in the children’s department at the Newton Public Library.

Wonderful Winter

Birds Program

Children in kindergarten through sixth grade are invited to attend a Wonderful Winter Birds program at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in the library meeting room. Jasper County Conservation Board naturalist Katie Cantu will teach how birds survive during harsh Iowa winters. No preregistration is necessary. Call Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter at (641) 792-4108 with questions.

Smart Investing

@ Your Library

The Newton Public Library will launch the “Smart investing @ Your Library” program to promote investor education in two sessions on Thursday, Jan. 31: the first at 2:30 and the second at 5:30 p.m. Anyone in the Jasper County area is invited to participate and should stop by the library, call (641) 792-4108 or email spadilla@newton.lib.ia.us to register.

Participants will continue their education via four weeks of online classes at their convenience, either at home or at the library. An investment manual will be provided to the first 25 registrants, and online investment resources also will be shared. A face-to-face wrap-up session will beat 5:30 p.m. March 5. The only cost to attend the program is a commitment to learn more about investing.  

The Smart Investing @ Your Library program is made possible through a $72,438 grant to Library Services of Iowa funded by the American Library Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is a cooperating partner in the program. Newton Public Library is one of 18 rural libraries in Iowa selected by Library Services of Iowa for participation in 2013.

Read with Porsche 

Read with Porsche, a therapy dog, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. each Wednesday in the children’s area of the library. Porsche is certified with Therapy Dogs International along with her handler, Lisa Gibbons. Porsche also visited Thomas Jefferson Elementary this fall to read with children. 

This program is for children who are beginning to read independently and would benefit from practice reading aloud. No pre-registration is necessary; simply stop by during the program and take a turn reading to Porsche. Call Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter at (641) 792-4108 with questions.

Story Times at Newton

Public Library 

• Enjoy stories about bears with Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter during Preschool Story Time, for children ages 3 to 5, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Each story time includes books, music, fingerplays and a simple craft. 

• Toddlers and Twos Story Time, which is for children ages 18 months to 36 months old, will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. A second Toddlers and Twos Story Time will follow at 11 a.m. Choose to attend one session, but not both as back-to-back sessions are offered so neither will be too large. All story times meet in the Carousel Horse Room, except on holidays, and are free and open to all children and their caregivers. Contact Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter at (641) 792-4108 with questions.

Downloadable E-books,

Audio Books Available

Downloadable e-books and audio books are available at the library through the library’s catalog for Newton, Lambs Grove, Reasnor and rural Jasper County residents. If someone on your Christmas list received a Nook, Kindle, iPad, Sony e-reader or other e-book device this holiday season, be sure to stop by the library’s information desk for instructions on how to access these books that are specific to different e-readers.

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