Fortune’s Magic Farm
Illustrator: Catia Chien
Ten-year-old Isabelle has a dreary life in perpetually rainy Runny Cove. She lives with her elderly grandmother in a boardinghouse and works at an umbrella factory-the town's only business. After one particularly awful day, Isabelle goes to the beach, where a boy named Sage rides in on an elephant seal. Sage whisks Isabelle away to Fortune's Farm, a delightful, magical place where Isabelle finds joy. But when Isabelle thinks back to Runny Cove, she wishes all the miserable people there could be as happy as she is. Black-and-white drawings.
JLG Release: Mar 2009
Praise & Reviews
Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Book List, School Library Journal
School Library Journal
Ten-year-old Isabelle, who was found on a doorstep when she was a baby and adopted by an elderly woman, lives in a dreadful boardinghouse in a town in which it never stops raining. She works long hours at Mr. Supreme's Umbrella Factory labeling boxes to support herself and her ailing grandmother. One day she is told that Grandma has passed
Ten-year-old Isabelle, who was found on a doorstep when she was a baby and adopted by an elderly woman, lives in a dreadful boardinghouse in a town in which it never stops raining. She works long hours at Mr. Supreme's Umbrella Factory labeling boxes to support herself and her ailing grandmother. One day she is told that Grandma has passed away, and she decides to escape from Runny Cove. Upon running away, she meets Sage, a 12-year-old boy who tells her that she is not an orphan, but rather a tender, a member of the family who lives in hiding in the last place on Earth where magic grows. Sage takes her on a journey across the ocean to Fortune's Farm. Isabelle finds her new home to be a sunny place filled with fruit trees and magical seeds that immediately change her pale, prunelike appearance into a healthy body. Isabelle is faced with some tough obstacles and challenges to her loyalty but ultimately she wins her grandfather's approval and is able to bring about change in Runny Cove. The story gets off to a slow start, but upon arrival at Fortune's Farm, the descriptions of this magical land make it worthwhile. Readers will cheer for Isabelle throughout the story and despise Mr. Supreme and Mama Lu, the despicable owner of the boardinghouse.
Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, OH
Junior Library Guild
Placing an indomitable character in situations as bleak as they are absurd, Suzanne Selfors has written a darkly comic adventure in the tradition of Roald Dahl. Though Isabelle lives a life devoid of joy, she is a lively, compassionate, and determined heroine “whose spirit refused to be extinguished, no matter how waterlogged it got.”
While Isabelle’s specific experiences are fantastical, children will identify with her struggles and emotions. She gets in trouble with her evil landlady for having a messy room; she also thinks she’s given too much work to do. (In her case, this is justified, not a spoiled child’s lament.) Readers will certainly relate to Isabelle’s guilty feelings when she realizes that, in making new friends, she has neglected old ones in the process. Happily for Isabelle (and the book’s audience), she eventually unites all her companions in a newly blissful Runny Cove.
Though much of Fortune’s Magic Farm focuses on Isabelle learning about herself, she also discovers the wonders of the world around her. Her delight in simple pleasures that she has previously been denied, such as a piece of fruit or the warmth of sunshine, is charming. When viewed through Isabelle’s eyes, even the smallest happiness becomes a marvel.
5 1/4" x 7 5/8"
Level 4.6; Points: 8;
Scholastic Reading Counts
Level 4.2; Points: 13;
Potentially Sensitive Areas
Rain, Child labor, Orphans, Sea monsters, Apples, Landladies, Slugs, Unfairness, Grandmothers, Illness, Eavesdropping, Greedy people, Cruelty, Death, Grief, Escapes, Elephant seals, Magic, Seasickness, Marmots, Names, Promises, Camouflage, Transformations, New homes, Plants, Family histories, Lies, Tests, Saving others, Happy endings,