Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Afternoon of the Elves is that rarity in children’s literature—a delicate and complex psychological study of characters and relationships presented in a swift-moving, lively, and intriguing plot. The story focuses on the friendship between the sweet but unremarkable Hilary and Sara-Kate, whose unkempt appearance, temperamental personality, and mysterious family background have made her a social outcast at the suburban school that they both attend. Through her stories of elves and elfin ways, Sara-Kate introduces Hilary to the world of fantasy and magic; through her mercurial moods and secretive ways, she gives Hilary a glimpse of the ambiguities of human nature. When Sara-Kate’s tragic family circumstances are revealed, she opens Hilary’s eyes to the world beyond Hilary’s own carefully controlled and circumscribed family life.

Sara-Kate initiates the friendship by inviting Hilary, her next-door neighbor, to look at an “elf village”—a collection of tiny houses made from sticks and leaves in a corner of her backyard. Hilary is immediately intrigued and listens eagerly to Sara-Kate’s explanations of how the elves live. Hilary’s two best friends, Jane and Alison, frown on this new friendship. They mock Sara-Kate’s shabby clothes and scoff at the talk of elves. Hilary’s highly conventional parents also express uneasiness at their daughter spending time in her new friend’s junk-strewn, poison ivy-infested backyard.


(The entire section is 536 words.)