September ushers the kids back to school, or for some of our littlest ones, signals the very beginning of their school careers. Here then is the timely tale of newcomer, Aada, and The Truth Pixie, her best friend and personal navigator through the bewildering complexities of school life. The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig is a story in rhyme, aimed at soothing school nerves and instilling confidence at an often anxious time. Energetically illustrated by the always-excellent Chris Mould, we join Aada as she anticipates starting a brand new school. A daunting prospect but thankfully the Truth Pixie is right by her side, effervescent, forthright, and most importantly, a wonderful listener.
You may think there’s a magical dusting of kudos to be had from hanging out with a pixie, but not here, where Aada’s new schoolmates remain wary and unwelcoming, one girl telling Aada that her dad won’t let her be friends, ‘He says that pixies are full of evil powers…’
A contagious fear of otherness has predictably morphed into bigotry and when a mean girl sneers at Aada’s accent and shabby clothes, the bullying spirals to a calamitous head. Dramatic decisions taken by both Pixie and Aada force them to consider their lives, both individually and as best friends.
‘Don’t try to be something
You really are not.
Your one true self
Is the best thing you’ve got.’
Repeated within the course of the story, these sentiments hold the key to Aada’s future.
As a Dr Seuss fan, I recognise the homage here but am duty bound to report that some of the rhyming is laboured and distinctly sub-Seussian, an irksome sidebar to a heartwarming tale.
A prominent mental health advocate, Matt Haig has written this for kids’ ‘worried moments,’ and despite being piqued by the verse, I’d gladly recommend it as a welcome comfort blanket for young back-to-schoolers.
The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig is illustrated by Chris Mould and published by Canongate Books, 128 pages.