Reviewed by Megan Misiewicz
What is the difference between prayer and making a wish? This question is at the heart of Zindzi and the Mystery of the Attic Fairy (Amazon Kindle, June 2018), an utterly delightful Christian fantasy book for children, ages 6 and up, written and published as an e-book by Sharri Bockheim Steen, a member of Stone Hill’s congregation.
While some of us may be tempted to believe that the difference is self-evident, the majority of American Christian youth would not agree, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion. Over half of our young people equate prayer with definitions such as “making me happy,” and “feeling good.”
Zindzi, the precocious and charming 10-year-old narrator of this book, discovers the answer through a series of encounters with her family and the people in her new neighborhood. The mystery begins when a young girl named Flowerbell, claiming to be a fairy, inexplicably appears in Zindzi’s attic. While she may look like just another 10-year-old girl, albeit dressed in a fancier outfit, as soon as Flowerbell enters the scene, the secret desires of Zindzi’s family begin to materialize. Could she possibly be a real fairy?
Themes of family conflict, navigating loss as a child, and broader theological questions are thoughtfully discussed throughout, making this book ideal for reading aloud with the family. Steen's style is reminiscent of Jostein Gaarder in Sophie's World, in the way she seamlessly blends Christian theology with mystery. Parents will love the devotional aspects and broader teaching moments offered by this book, while children will love the engaging narrative and lighthearted suspense.
In my opinion, it is difficult to find books in the Christian fantasy genre written for children or young adults that are not one dimensional, rife with clichés, or a tamer imitation of secular young adult fiction. Zindzi and the Mystery of the Attic Fairy defies all three of those stereotypes, while also appealing to a broad audience and being wholly accessible to young readers. Steen speaks in an authentic and unique voice that ushered me back to the anticipation and enthusiasm of my childhood. At times, I forgot that this book was intended for children and cried while reading more poignant chapters.
The author lives in Rocky Hill with her husband Bob and children Sam and Anneka, trained as a molecular biologist and teaches biology at The Wilberforce School. She has published a number of spiritual reflections and humorous short stories, but Zindzi and the Mystery of the Attic Fairy is her first full-length book, reflecting her passion for finding evidence of God's goodness and love all around us. I recommend this book to any Stone Hill reader looking for a fun, family-friendly book in the Christian fantasy genre.
Learn more about the book and Christian fantasy literature:
Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church,* by Kenda Creasy Dean (Oxford University Press, 2010).