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Afternoon of the Elves

Afternoon of the Elves

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Afternoon of the Elves

4/5 (11 évaluations)
131 pages
1 heure
Jan 29, 2013


In “this enchanting story about friendship,” two fourth grade girls discover a magical world hidden in one’s backyard (Publishers Weekly).
 No fourth grader trusts Sara-Kate Connolly. Her boots are dirty, her clothes are weird, and she’s so maladjusted that the school had to hold her back a grade. But Hillary is her next-door neighbor, and can’t say no when the unusual loner invites her over to play. In Sara-Kate’s overgrown backyard, Hillary will find proof of a world of magic—the kind that can only blossom between true friends. Among the rusted car parts and wild plants, a miniature village has sprung up. It has tiny houses made from string, sticks, and maple leaves; a well with a bottlecap for a bucket; and even a little playground with a Popsicle-stick Ferris wheel. But there’s absolutely no sign of who built this miniature world. To Sara-Kate, the answer is clear—only elves could be responsible for something so enchanted. As she and Hillary watch for their elusive new friends, they learn that friendship, like magic, springs up where you least expect it. This ebook features a personal history by Janet Taylor Lisle including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s own collection.
Jan 29, 2013

À propos de l'auteur

Janet Taylor Lisle (b. 1947) is an author of children’s fiction. After growing up in Connecticut, Lisle graduated from Smith College and spent a year working for the volunteer group VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) before becoming a journalist. She found that she loved writing human interest and “slice of life” stories, and honed the skills for observation and dialogue that would later serve her in her fiction. Lisle took a fiction writing course in 1981, and then submitted a manuscript to Richard Jackson, a children’s book editor at Bradbury Press who was impressed with her storytelling. Working with Jackson, Lisle published her first novel, The Dancing Cats of Applesap, in 1984. Since then she has written more than a dozen books for young readers, including The Great Dimpole Oak (1987) and Afternoon of the Elves (1989), which won a Newbery Honor. Her most recent novel is Highway Cats (2008).

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Aperçu du livre

Afternoon of the Elves - Janet Taylor Lisle







Afternoon of the Elves

Janet Taylor Lisle

For Elizabeth

a friend to elves


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

A Biography of Janet Taylor Lisle


THE AFTERNOON HILLARY FIRST saw the elf village, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

Are you sure it isn’t mice? she asked Sara-Kate, who stood beside her, thin and nervous. The houses are small enough for mice.

No, it isn’t, Sara-Kate said. Mice don’t make villages in people’s backyards.

Hillary got down on her hands and knees to look more closely. She counted the tiny houses. There were nine, each made of sticks bound delicately together with bits of string and wire.

And there’s a well, she whispered, with a bucket that winds down on a string to pull the water out.

Not a bucket. A bottlecap! snorted Sara-Kate, twitching her long, shaggy hair away from her face. She was eleven, two years older than Hillary, and she had never spoken to the younger girl before. She had hardly looked at her before.

Can I try drawing some water? Hillary asked.

Sara-Kate said, No.

The roofs of the houses were maple leaves attached to the sticks at jaunty angles. And because it was autumn, the leaves were lovely colors, orange-red, reddish-orange, deep yellow. Each house had a small yard in front neatly bordered with stones that appeared to have come from the driveway.

They used the leaves dropping off those trees over there, Hillary said.

Sara-Kate shrugged. Why not? The leaves make the houses pretty.

How did they get these stones all the way over here? Hillary asked.

Elves are strong, Sara-Kate said. And magic.

Hillary looked at her suspiciously then. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe so much as that she couldn’t right away put Sara-Kate on the side of magic. There never had been one pretty thing about her. Nothing soft or mysterious. Her face was narrow and ended in a sharp chin, and her eyes were small and hard as bullets. They were such little eyes, and set so deeply in her head, that the impression she gave was of a gaunt, fierce bird, a rather untidy bird if one took her clothes into consideration. They hung on her frame, an assortment of ill-fitting, wrinkly garments. (Doesn’t she care how she looks? a new girl at school had inquired just this fall, giving every child within earshot the chance to whirl around and shout, No!)

Least magical of all, Sara-Kate Connolly wore boots that were exactly like the work boots worn by men in gas stations.

Black and greasy, Hillary’s friend Jane Webster said.

She found them at the dump, Alison Mancini whispered.

No she didn’t. Alison, that’s terrible!

Normally, fourth graders were too shy to risk comment on students in higher grades. But Sara-Kate had been held back in school that year. She was taking the fifth grade all over again, which made her a curiosity.

Can you tell me where you found those amazing boots? I’ve just got to get some exactly like them, Jane said to her one day, wearing a look of such innocence that for a second nobody thought to laugh.

In the middle of Sara-Kate’s backyard, Hillary recalled the sound of that laughter while she stared at Sara-Kate’s boots. Then she glanced up at Sara-Kate’s face.

Why does it have to be elves? Why couldn’t it be birds or chipmunks or some animal we’ve never heard of? Or maybe some person made these houses, Hillary said, a sly tone in her voice. She got off her knees and stood up beside the older girl. We are the same height! she announced in surprise.

They were almost the same except for Sara-Kate’s thinness. Hillary was sturdily built and stood on wide feet.

In fact, I’m even a little taller! Hillary exclaimed, rising up a bit on her toes and looking down.

Sara-Kate stepped away from her quickly. She folded her arms across her chest and beamed her small, hard eyes straight into Hillary’s wide ones.

Look, she said. "I didn’t have to invite you over here today and I didn’t have to show you this. I thought you might like to see an elf village for a change. If you don’t believe it’s elves, that’s your problem. I know it’s elves."

So, there they were: elves—a whole village of them living down in Sara-Kate’s junky, overgrown backyard that was itself in back of Sara-Kate’s broken-down house with the paint peeling off. Sara-Kate’s yard was not the place Hillary would have picked to build a village if she were an elf. Where there weren’t thistles and weeds there was mud, and in the mud, broken glass and wire and pieces of rope. There were old black tires and rusty parts of car engines and a washing machine turned over on its side. Carpets of poison ivy grew under the trees and among the bushes. Nobody ever played in Sara-Kate’s backyard. But then, as Sara-Kate would have said, nobody had ever been invited to play in her backyard. Except Hillary, that is, on that first afternoon of the elves.

Sara-Kate Connolly thinks she’s got elves, Hillary told her mother when she came home, rather late, from looking at the village. The yards of the two families backed up to each other, a source of irritation to Hillary’s father, who believed that property should be kept up to standard. But who could he complain to? Sara-Kate’s father did not live there anymore. (He’s away on a trip, Sara-Kate always said.) And Sara-Kate’s mother didn’t care about yards. She hardly ever went outside. She kept the shades of the house drawn down tight, even in summer.

Elves? Mrs. Lenox repeated.

They’re living in her backyard, Hillary said. They have little houses and a well. I said it must be something else but Sara-Kate is sure it’s elves. It couldn’t be, could it?

I don’t like you playing in that yard, Hillary’s mother told her. It’s not a safe place for children. If you want to see Sara-Kate, invite her over here.

Sara-Kate won’t come over here. She never goes to other people’s houses. And she never invites anyone to her house, Hillary added significantly. She tried to flick her hair over her shoulder the way Sara-Kate had done it that afternoon. But the sides were too short and refused to stay back.

It seems that Sara-Kate is beginning to change her mind about invitations, Mrs. Lenox said then, with an unhappy bend in the corners of her mouth.

But how could Hillary invite Sara-Kate to play? And play with what? The elves were not in Hillary’s backyard, which was neat and well-tended, with an apple tree to climb and a round garden filled with autumn flowers. Hillary’s father had bought a stone birdbath at a garden shop and placed it on a small mound at the center of the garden. He’d planted ivy on the mound and trained it to grow up the bird-bath’s fluted stem. Birds came from all over the neighborhood to swim there, and even squirrels and chipmunks dashed through for a dip. The birdbath made the garden beautiful.

Now it’s a real garden, Hillary’s father had said proudly, and, until that afternoon, Hillary had agreed. She had thought it was among the most perfect gardens on earth.

Sara-Kate’s elves began to change things almost immediately, however. Not that Hillary really believed in them. No, she didn’t. Why should she? Sara-Kate was not her friend. But, even without being believed, magic can begin to change things. It moves invisibly through the air, dissolving the usual ways of seeing, allowing new ways to creep in, secretly, quietly, like a stray cat sliding through bushes.

Sara-Kate says elves don’t like being out in the open, Hillary remarked that evening as she and her father strolled across their garden’s well-mowed lawn. She found herself examining the birdbath with new, critical eyes.

She says they need weeds and bushes to hide under, and bottlecaps and string lying around to make their wells.

Mr. Lenox didn’t answer. He had bent over to fix a piece of ivy that

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Ce que les gens pensent de Afternoon of the Elves

11 évaluations / 9 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (4/5)
    This is a haunting and bittersweet story. The story starts with the typical “outcast” child and the girl who becomes friends with her. But from there, it goes much different than I expected.As Hillary spends time with the abrasive Sara-Kate, she begins to wonder about the magic of the elves and their village in Sara-Kate’s backyard.Hillary, with her normal home and parents, struggles to understand the way Sara-Kate lives and process what it means. Her naivety often leads her to strange child-like conclusions.But it is the ending that sets this story apart. There is not happy ending. Sara-Kate is shipped off to live with relatives after her secret is discovered. Sara-Kate doesn’t become “normal” like Hillary. No, Hillary becomes like Sara-Kate, taking up the world of the elves and their strange ways. While sorrowful, it is a much more powerful ending.Worth reading, particularly with Children, although I would advise an adult on hand to discuss some difficult passages and scenes, as there is mention of child neglect and mild abuse, although nothing graphic.
  • (5/5)
    Nine-year-old Hillary lives with her parents in their nice home and their lovely garden, which her father keeps immaculate. She goes to school and hangs out with her popular friends and lives in a nice little bubble. The neighbor girl, Sara Kate, lives in a run-down house with her mysterious and rarely-seen mother (her father isn't around), wears raggedy clothing and strange old boots to school, and has no friends because all the girls think she's strange. When Sara Kate invites Hillary over to her yard, which is full of trash and briars and weeds, to see the village that the elves created, Hillary accepts, much to her friends' scorn and disapproval. She gradually becomes friends with the cautious and caustic Sara Kate and spends most of her time with her in the elf village (which she believes in her heart is real), but is never invited inside the house. After Sara Kate stops coming to school and is never in the yard anymore, Hillary braves walking into the dilapidated house to look for her, and in that moment her bubbled life begins to change. Well written, lovingly crafted, and absolutely heartbreaking. An important read for middle grade kiddos.
  • (2/5)
    Readers expecting elves and fairies will be disappointed to find just another story like any other. They will read of the elf village and wait for the appearance of the creatures...and then sigh in displeasure when it never occurs. Instead, the story centers around two rather flat characters and their relationship. Several potential plotlines surface, but none become fully developed. Whether looking for a fairy tale or friendship story, readers should look elsewhere.
  • (5/5)
    Sara-Kate is an outcast child who lives next door to Hillary. Everyone thinks she is mean and strange, and so she has no friends. Then one day Hillary sees her in her backyard and learns that there are elves living there and that they have made a little village, complete with a ferris wheel. Pretty soon, Hillary is going to Sara-kate's yard all the time and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Then Hillary learns the truth about Sara-Jate's broken family, her sick mother, and the fact that Sara-Kate has been taking care of her mother and the house all by herself. The more she learns about this harsh reality, the more she starts to convince herself that Sara-Kate is actually an elf. I like the fact that such a harsh reality is masked by a childhood fantasy about elves. The book Signal actually reminded me a lot of this book, because in the end, you find out that the child who has constructed such an intriguing fantasy world is actually trying to escape into it because reality is too painful. I read this book in elementary and middle school and it was another of my favorites.
  • (4/5)
    This is an interesting tale of friendship...focusing on issues of loyalty, independent thinking and how we treat those who are different. From the back blurb, I expected something similar to a modern version of T. H. White's Mistress Masham's Repose (a marvelous book, itself) but it surprised me. The reader is left to decide whether this is a delightful fantasy story, or a tale of desperate imagination attempting to make reality bearable.I think most readers will enjoy this book; I did. However, it has a rather odd overtone which left me unsettled. If you come down on the side of this not being a fantasy book...as I did...the author seemed unwilling just to let Hillary have her viewpoint. It's almost as if she, the author, took sides in the story in a slightly irresponsible way.Recommended, but I plan to talk over the larger issues with my kids if they read it.
  • (4/5)
    This 1990 Newbery Honor award winner, is hauntingly complex.Hillary is a child of comfortable middle class who is curious about Sara Kate, the neighbor girl who wears raggedy clothes, sporadically attends school and lives in a dilapidated house.The story becomes darker as Hillary is enticed to explore Sara Kate's magical elfin village, complete with tiny houses of autumn leaves for roofs, bottle caps used for swimming pools and teeny stones for bitty lawn ornaments.When the little village becomes an obsession for Hillary, she finds that secrets abound in the larger ramshackle house inhabited by Sara. Forbidden to play next door, Sara disobeys her parents and is increasingly drawn to the magic of the village and her elfin, waif-like neighbor whose mother hides behind the darkened windows in the unmagical abode.This is an excellent tale of societal impressions, of doors that are closed and windows that are barred, of judgment rather than assistance. It is a tale of magic vs. cold, cruel reality. It is a story of friendship, but it is ever so much more than this. When Hillary's eyes are opened she sees things that her comfortable, safe life never dreamed possible.Highly recommended!
  • (5/5)
    This is one of my most favorite books and I have enjoyed reading it again, even if the last time I read it was in 5th grade. I would highly recommend any teacher to have their class read this book and encourage them to have the students really get into a project at the end. I think having them maker their own garden would be something that really used their creative side and would make this assignment enjoyable and fun!
  • (3/5)
    Not my favorite, but descent
  • (4/5)
    This one's due for a re-read. I recall it as a lovely but disquieting story that mixes fantasy and reality.