Eily and her father live by the sea, not far from the mysterious island of Lisnashee, home to the fairy folk known as the Good People. Eily’s father ventures annually to the island to gather fog, which has magical properties. It’s a dangerous job, but the village folk rely on the fog water for charms, cures and protection, particularly from the Good People. But this year, Papa accidentally makes the trip to Lisnashee without his charm meant to ward off fairy spells, leaving Eily with her own job to do.
Marianne McShane’s text in The Fog Catcher’s Daughter feels like it’s been passed down through generations, a folk legend whispered in hushed tones to little ones leaning forward to listen. Her tale is filled with rich sensory descriptions. When she writes that “a cold wind shivered across the sand,” you’ll tremble right along with Eily. Young readers are sure to wonder, as I did, whether The Fog Catcher’s Daughter is based on a true story. An author’s note gives a glimpse into the Irish folklore that underpins the tale, as well as the real-life Moroccan practice of fog catching that inspired McShane to create it.
Illustrator Alan Marks’ watercolor art is so ethereal and captivating, you’ll want to hang it on the wall. Windswept grasses and tumbling waves create a landscape that seems both fantastical and utterly real. Fog creeps around corners, rises from the ground and blows across the water, becoming a character every bit as significant as Eily herself. At times, Marks depicts the Good People as mere wisps of mist and other times as distinct, ghostly figures, perfectly capturing their ambiguous, tempestuous nature. A soft, warm-toned hearth scene as well as the lush greens of spreads depicting Eily’s family’s fields offer a reassuring and welcoming contrast to the wild blues and grays of Lisnashee. You’ll especially want to linger on a wondrous two-page spread of the village apothecary shop and its shelves packed with plants, shells, stones and bottles.
Though it contains slightly spooky themes, The Fog Catcher’s Daughter doesn’t haunt so much as enchant.