Describing the "Whistle Bright Magic, a Nutfolk Tale", a midgrade novel about divorce, the strength of family and friendship, and the magic of wood fairies who live in a stump, by author Barb Bentler Ullman.
From the beginning I wanted to tell the story of Willa’s daughter, who would be able to see the fairies easily, perhaps because she’s second generation. In fact, I referred to the story as “Willa’s Daughter” for a while, until Zelly turned into her own personality, with her own friends, and I realized the story wasn’t about Willa anymore—it was about Zelly and Frederick and Lupine.
Whistle started off as a side character because I needed a go-between for Zelly and the fairies. But Whistle lit up every scene he was in, so he just had to become a central figure. Because Whistle was a magical-type-kid, Peter Pan naturally came to mind--a fun guy, but a little one dimensional. So I made Whistle a brooding character who was intelligent, and who, as a mood catcher, was all about understanding emotion.
In my heart, I knew they belonged together, but after Vincent’s rocky childhood, I figured he might run into trouble. Since I didn’t want to write about the difficult stuff Willa and Vincent went through as a couple, I put it all in the past. I kept thinking about the book, “Wuthering Heights,” (which I never cared for) where the guy, Heathcliff, leaves the girl he loves and goes out into the world in the most impoverished, pitiful circumstances. He returns, a wealthy jerk, and talk about dysfunctional! So I made Vincent leave his girl behind and go out into the world a troubled, messed up guy, but he came back... and the nice thing about writing is that I can make the story go how I want it to go.
Zelly is an artist, and way more random than her science-loving mom, but where Willa was a worrier, Zelly is able to compartmentalize her feelings. At first, this ability steers her into being sort of snotty, as she squeezes her sad concerns into anger (Willa’s conflicted feelings seemed to emerge in anxiety). I liked how bit by bit, Zelly was able to better understand her self, along with unraveling the mystery of her dad.
The best book is always the last book. I love Whistle Bright Magic.
Whistle Bright jacket artwork © 2009 by Melanie Delon