A Hidden Magic
I read A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde in 1988 when it first came out. I fell immediately in love with the subversive fairy tale. It begins with, “Once upon a time-before kings and queens were replaced by an act of congress and when kissing a frog still sometimes resulted in more than a case of warts-there lived a young and nice but very plain princess named Jennifer.” Jennifer, following proper fairy-tale protocol, fell for a very handsome but very conceited prince named Alexander. When Alexander offends a powerful witch, it falls to Jennifer to save him. In the course of doing so, she meets a wizard and soon wonders if she’s such a proper fairy-tale princess after all. A good little princess would love Alexander, but does she? Nope. It is plain Norman who captures her heart. And Alexander? Well, he is just fine with the vain enchantress they meet along the way.
This book led to my creation of the Hidden Magic Trail. On my walk home from Whitney School I would take a short cut through what once used to be an alley between Fourth and Third Streets It had long since grown over and become part of everyone’s grass-covered backyards. One day I pushed passed the bushes and wandered through the path imagining myself on an adventure like Jennifer. From that day onward I walked home along my Hidden Magic Trail. I would pass by the magic tree which you could practically walk up since it grew at such a gentle slope. There was a small abandoned garden enclosed by stones, which I imagined to be a wishing well. I created a lean-to out of fallen branches from near-by trees and it became my shelter along the trail. Eventually I exited out onto another alley that connected Third Street to Fourth Street. I imaged the gray gravel and pavement was a silver river, winding its way along. I would walk along the edge of my imaginary river and then imagine wading through it or paddling a boat across it to my home.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered that Vivian Vande Velde has written a slue of other young adult books. Vivian Vande Velde who was born in 1951 in Rochester, New York, began writing at age 28, the same year her daughter was born, and has been publishing relatively consistently since. Her novels and short story collections usually contain elements of horror, fantasy, and humor.
Among her titles are: Heir Apparent, There’s A Dead Person Following My Sister Around, Dragonbate, Stolen, Cloaked in Red, Curses Inc and Other Stories, Tales From The Brother’s Grimm and Sister’s Weird, A Well-Timed Enchantment, Remembering Raquel and Witch Dreams. Her book Never Trust a Dead Man (1999) received the 2000 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel. I highly recommend Cloaked in Red, which is several re-tellings of the Red Riding Hood Fairy tail, and Curses Inc and Other Stories. Both made me laugh out loud.