Lucy Robb reflects on the impact of the ‘Rainbow Magic’ series on her as a young reader, reminding us that we all started somewhere.
I had been trying to think of a suitable response to this theme for quite some time, weighing weighty intellectual and aesthetically-pleasing works of literary creation and invention and trying to establish their life-defining impact. It slowly dawned on me that, actually, my answer perhaps was not going to be as highbrow as the others of this series.
If I was going to be completely honest with myself, the answer was hot pink and sparkly, and charmingly emblazoned with a segment of a rainbow arching across the bottom far right corner. Yes, the truth to be told is that the book that has probably had the most far reaching impact on my life belongs to that remarkable series ‘The Rainbow Fairies’ written by Daisy Meadows. ‘Daisy Meadows’ being in fact four separate individuals; Narinder Dhami, Sue Bentley, Linda Chapman and Sue Mongredien. The Rainbow Fairies branched out into quite an extensive enterprise, with The Weather Fairies, The Party Fairies, The Jewel Fairies, The Pet Keeper Fairies and many, many, many more following suit. There has even been a ‘Meghan the Wedding Sparkle Fairy’. But yet, what can I say, it was the start of my love of literature and a completely unquenchable addiction to books (much to the detriment of my bank account, but perhaps of benefit to my mind).
The storylines of these books are fairly straightforward: Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker are young girls who are best friends. They typically go on holiday or on some kind of outing, only to encounter one lone fairy of a group of seven who needs their help. They are at risk of losing their magic due to the devious machinations of Jack Frost, the archvillain of the tale, and his goblin groupies. The goblins normally have stolen some kind of special object or talisman which the girls then endeavour to recover, only encountering Jack Frost at the series crescendo in the final book of the series. Naturally, once having defeated old Frostie and his clumsy crew, Kirsty and Rachel are duly rewarded with a trip to Fairyland where its monarchs congratulate them and give them a ‘thank you’ gift and souvenir such as a snowglobe (I think that was the Weather Fairies, if you are at all interested).
This may all sound quite simple, but this was what got me reading. I used to absolutely loathe learning to read, many a scream and outburst of tears was brought on during a singular rendition of The Cat Sat on the Mat or one of the Biff, Chip and Kipper books of the Magic Key series. I struggled to decipher all these meandering squiggles, memorising that when the line curved around and then down in a little dash it meant ‘ah’ or that a certain wiggly formation was apparently synonymous with a dog. This all seemed rather pointless, especially when at the end of the day all you had learnt was that at some point a cat had sat on a mat somewhere, then had somehow instantaneously grown in size to be labelled as fat, and that an unfortunate rodent was now to be found underneath the aforesaid floor ornament. To a five or six-year-old me, this was all quite ridiculous and a waste of time, thank you very much.
This changed when a visiting family friend left behind her copy of Amber the Orange Fairy. As the knowledgeable of you might know, this wasn’t even the first book of the series (that honour belongs to Ruby, the Red fairy), but it was where my love of literature started nonetheless. It was probably the cover that first attracted me, I loved trying to draw fairies, princesses and mermaids and I think I wanted to copy the fairy, hovering in all her orange-jumpsuited glory, and the flourish of her high ponytail. It was the tale, however, that transfixed me. It was filled with excitement, fairies, friendship and with all the comfort of a happy ending. I was hooked. I promptly set off on reading to discover the fate of the Rainbow Fairies, and from there to the Weather Fairies and so on until I then began to encounter other books and other stories. Ultimately even though I now read Virginia Woolf, T.S Eliot, David Foster Wallace and other such eminently respected writers, it gives me no shame to admit where I started.
After all, if you look up quotes from Amber The Orange Fairy on Goodreads, the only word that comes up is ‘magical’: and that is what it was to me once, and what books are to me still.