No Flying in the House is a novel by Betty Brock, who also wrote the popular children’s storybook The Shades. The book has been beloved by children for more than four decades. In 1995, it was adapted as a stage play performed in Chicago by the Lifeline Theater.
Synopsis: Annabel Tippens doesn’t have parents, but she doesn’t think that’s strange. She thinks being raised by a tiny white talking dog named Gloria is perfectly normal. It is only when Gloria takes Annabel to live with the stodgy Mrs. Vancourt that Annabel discovers that her life is truly extraordinary. While living in Mrs. Vancourt’s grand but lonely house, Annabel meets a wicked talking cat named Belinda who tells her the truth that Gloria has kept secret from her all along—Annabel is half-fairy. Annabel discovers she can do things other little girls can’t do, not even her new friend Beatrice Cox. She can kiss her elbow and fly around the house. Annabel is delighted. Who wouldn’t want to be magical? But soon, Gloria helps Annabel to realize she cannot be both mortal and fairy. She’ll have to choose. And if she chooses to be a fairy, she’ll lose Gloria forever.
Why I loved it: I have never been predisposed to princesses, but mythical creatures like fairies? Sign me up. The mystery of Annabel’s history is revealed amidst an utterly charming story of a little girl discovering a little bit about what it means to be human. The fantastical elements of the story integrate seamlessly with the mundane. Gloria the talking dog is truly maternal, loving, and cherishing her life with Annabel, and being as protective of her as any human mother could. Mrs. Vancourt starts off cold and distant but soon grows to love Annabel and Gloria as though they are family. As she discovers the magic of her lineage, Annabel makes her first real friend and realizes, through seeing Beatrice with her family, how wonderful having parents could be. The vehicle through which Annabel makes her choice was enough to make me cry as a kid, and the resolution brought everything together in a conclusion that held a big surprise even as it satisfied with its thoroughness and warmth. I read and reread this book as a child, and rereading it for this piece made me fall in love with it all over again.
Similar to: Cynthia Rylant, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White, Ruth Stiles Gannett
Why it stands the test of time: No Flying in the House is a wonderful example of a fantastical story told in a down to earth, relate-able style. The gentle yet lively way in which the story unfolds makes it perfect for kids of all ages. Kids can really put themselves in Annabel’s place, allowing their imaginations to run wild as they wonder what they might do if they were suddenly imbued with magical powers. Underneath Annabel’s story is a real exploration of family—what it means to be a part of one and how to appreciate the one you have. It is also an excellent introduction to the vast and entertaining world of mysteries. When the book concludes it feels satisfying—as if the surprise ending was the only thing that could have happened all along. The illustrations are lovely, and the chapters are a perfect length for reading together before bed. Just don’t be surprised if the book carries you and your child along such that you’ll feel the need to finish it all in one sitting.
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