BOOK REVIEW: The Folio Society’s How To See Fairies by Charles van Sandwyk

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1-4.jpegIllustration © Charles van Sandwyk 2018 from The Folio Society edition of Charles van Sandwyk’s How To See Fairies


The Folio Society edition of How To See Fairies is a very special book indeed – it is so magical that one can’t help but be drawn into the world that Charles van Sandwyk has deftly and beautifully created. It is both a feast for the eyes and the imagination in equal bountiful pleasure. The book is ideal for those who are interested in folktales and fairytales and those who love books that are unique and breathtakingly attractive.

How To See Fairies and Other Tales is both written and illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk – I am a big fan of his work and have also got the Folio Society The Wind in the Willows edition that he worked on too. What I love about this book is that the artwork and words work in harmony and cause each page to be a delight to discover – I read the majority of this book to my daughters and we sat remarking about how delicious the illustrations were, all the little hidden depth to each page and recounting where we thought these characters may live in our garden. There is even a huge foldout picture included in the collection which is in my opinion one of the hidden gems of the book – once again delivered in the magical and masterful style that Sandwyk has incorporated into the whole book.

Illustration © Charles van Sandwyk 2018 from The Folio Society edition of Charles van Sandwyk’s How To See Fairies

There is a beautiful lyricism about Sandwyk’s prose and it is as equally delightful to discover it as an adult as it is for a child. I personally feel that for children How To See Fairies is a fabulous learning tool as well as a terrific book of fiction – it would be an ideal book for parents and teachers to read with reluctant readers, as I firmly believe that the magic that Sandwyk has captured within the pages (both in written word and illustrations) is infections and makes this a book we would highly recommend purchasing.

With the stories included reading more as fable than fairytale gives each story that you read hidden depth and an added dimension that lives long after the book is finished – each story has a learning outcome for the reader, some wisdom to be imparted on the recipient of these words – with each tale told in a delectably delicious musical way which allows the words to wash over the reader and becomes almost therapeutic in its effect.

So often when I sleep at night
my dreams are overladen
with visions of the fairy folk,
Led by a tiny maiden
they dance upon my furrowed brow
till I have all but woken,
And this is what they say to me,
In words so softly spoken.

As a child I was fascinated with fairies and finding these in the woods near where we used to live – now looking back on my childhood and being a father myself, I am sure that this in part was just my father trying to get some piece and quiet, sending us off into the forest whilst he ambled along smoking his B&H cigarettes whilst we scuttled about in the undergrowth looking for fairy houses and the like. They were special times, we’d find acorn shells and pretend they were hats of fairies, find moss and claim it were clothes or bedsheets for fairies of all types and sizes. How To See Fairies has rekindled that buzz around this particular issues for me and I will soon be taking my children to the woods to see if we can stumble upon some of these most magical creatures.

I would challenge anyone to read How To See Fairies and not be moved in someway by Sandwyk’s work both in the written and illustrative form – it may also move those older minds to look back on a time they once believed and you never know…you might just discover and rekindle that love of childhood possibilities and memories.

Illustration © Charles van Sandwyk 2018 from The Folio Society edition of Charles van Sandwyk’s How To See Fairies

The leaves are heaped in tidy mounds,
The branches whisper happy sounds.
The waves of grass move to and fro,
Then pause a while…in afterglow.

How To See Fairies is astounding, both lyrically and artistically – it’s more than a book it’s a work of art!

The Folio Society’s How To See Fairies authored and illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk is available exclusively from


Charles van Sandwyk

Charles van Sandwyk was born in South Africa and raised in Canada, he taught himself calligraphy and intaglio printing as a teenager. His first self-published book appeared when he was just 20, and won a national award. Since then his work has been archived by the National Library of Canada and treasured by private collectors across the world. Charles has produced illustrations for the Folio editions of The Blue Fairy Book, (2003) The Wind in the Willows, (2005), and a limited edition of Alice in Wonderland, published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first edition, it sold out rapidly.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery




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