Title: Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen
Author: Mark J. Grant
Published: August 2013 by Mascot Books
Genre: Children’s Fiction
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Lila is a polite six-year-old girl who lives with her mama and papa in New York City. She has two cats, and would now like to have a dog–except dogs are not allowed in her apartment building. After thinking about it for awhile, Lila asks her parents if she can have an invisible dog. Her parents agree, and together they decide to name the dog Fluffy. On their way to the pet store to buy invisible supplies for the invisible dog, a black and white Aussie appears from around the corner and introduces himself to Lila, saying, “My name is Fluffy.”
In a series of fun adventures that follow, Fluffy introduces Lila and her family to the invisible people of Iceland, who live inside the boulders of Central Park and the cornerstones of New York City buildings. One day, the invisible people discover that the birthmark on Lila’s left forearm is the sign of their Elven Queen, and just as she turns seven, Lila is made a princess. Can anything be better than that?
Lila had learned to be polite at a very early age. She was six years old now and she recalled that her mother had given her instructions about being polite more than once, but she could not remember exactly when her instructions started. She seemed to think that it began at about three, but she was not quite certain. Three was a half a life ago and it was similar to being sixty and trying to remember something that took place when you were thirty, but she wasn’t exactly sure about that either, being nowhere close to sixty.
To be more precise Lila had only learned about sixty recently, and it seemed such a large number that there must not be many numbers past sixty and if there were they couldn’t be that important. She knew that adults frequently mentioned numbers bigger than sixty but she could not imagine what they were for or why anyone would care. Sixty was quite large enough, thank you, and it hurt her head to try to imagine any numbers that might exceed that one.
Five dolls was something she could understand, and perhaps ten or fifteen might be useful as you wanted to have different conversations with your special friends, but it would take many days to converse with sixty dolls so that she dismissed that amount of dolls out of hand. Lila had met a girl once at school that claimed to have zillions of dolls bought by her father who worked in some street with really high walls or something, but she saw no value in any of it and anyway, she didn’t believe her because so many dolls would not allow for any space for people or cats or dogs and everyone knew that parents and children and pets must have someplace to eat and sleep. Dolls were important, of course, but people and animals more so, of that much she was certain.
Lila had asked her mother about this once. “Mama, why can dolls sleep anywhere, but people all sleep in beds and our animals all seem to have places that they have chosen for sleeping?” Her mother had explained that people prefer comfy places, and floors and the like are not comfy, while the cats and dogs chose sleeping places for reasons that people could not understand. She got the first part of this as she had personally tried to sleep on the floor just to see what it was like, and it was not nearly as comfy as her bed. Floors were useful for walking or perhaps crawling when you were much younger but she was in agreement with her mother that floors were not so much for sleeping.
Now some of her dolls did sleep with her on her bed. This was one of the decisions she made at night right before she went to sleep: which dolls would accompany her to bed. Every night was different, she was one day older after all, and so different choices had to be made, but this just seemed to be the way of growing older. Of course, it also partially depended upon which dolls behaved during the day and which ones had provided some sort of amusing conversation. Dolls, just like her mother and father, could be quite cranky at times, and so on those days they were not allowed to sleep with her. Lila had decided that she had to put up with cranky parents because, what could be done, but that her dolls were a different matter. It seemed quite unfair really. Her parents tried to control her all of the time but she had no control over them, and the difference between being a child and being a parent seemed quite distinct, but if that was the way it was, at least she could control her dolls.
Now Lila was neither a big six nor a little six but she was certainly a very big-eyed six. She had the largest eyes of any six-year-old in the city in which she lived, which was New York City. There are many people that lived there of course, and you could wander from Manhattan to Brooklyn and look around, but she could claim the biggest eyes. It was uncertain how this took place as both her father and mother had normal sized eyes, but not Miss Lila. It may have been that God decided she should see better than most, or that she should be set aside as a very particular little girl. We will never really know the reason of course, but the largest eyes on this side of the Hudson River are what she had and of that there is no question.
They were not the bug-kind of eyes nor were they the protruding type, but just eyes like saucers that she used for the tea parties that she had with her dolls. Her mother favored fancy blue tea cups and saucers and Lila liked the white ones with all of the interesting scrolls that she thought might mean something, kind of like the writing that her mother kept trying to get her to understand. It was just that the books with writing but without pictures seemed so dull and commonplace, that it was hard to pay attention to them, especially when the dolls wanted to have a conversation.
Each doll had a distinct personality. This was because each one reminded her of some person that either she knew or wanted to know, such as some of the people in TV shows or some of the singers that seemed quite beautiful to her. She had no idea how one became a singer actually or even how one got to be on a TV show, but they both seemed so glamorous that she supposed some of her dolls must be relatives of these people. This did bring about a sort of problem for Lila. She had asked her mother many times about this, but just who was a relative and who was not was quite unclear. There was Mama’s mother and Papa’s mother and she understood that they were her parent’s mothers like Mama was her mother.
How one became a mother though was a great uncertainty, though Mama had said she would explain when she was a few years older. Lila was actually quite glad of this because even though she was a very inquisitive child, she had this feeling in her tummy that the explanation would be long and complicated and make her head hurt just like when she considered numbers larger than sixty. Lila knew it had something to do with men and women and the difference between them, but as far as she was concerned, Mama was her parent and Papa was her parent and that was quite enough to know, thank you.
Now Lila’s family had two cats. One was a normal enough looking furball, but the other was very strange and particular. His face was odd, his smile was lopsided, and when he smiled, which was rarely, his fur stuck out in a very peculiar manner. This cat did not look at all like the cats in the cat books that Mama read to her, so it was a question of either having a strange cat, or that Mama was showing her strange books. It took Lila almost three days to decide this issue and it was somewhat painful because Mama had told her that the cat book cats were perfectly normal. She finally concluded that Mama would not mislead her so that it must be her cat who was not quite like other cats. Lila did not love this cat any less however, as one might imagine, but accepted him for who he was and as a member of the family. This decision was also useful at school.
Some of the girls at her school, never mind the boys because they didn’t really count, were also a little strange and they reminded her of her cat. She at first thought to stay away from the strange girls, but then after the cat decision, she realized that they might be her friends after all, even though they were not quite like her. She was a well-liked child, and Lila was often invited for sleepovers and here was where she learned why some of her new acquaintances were similar to her cat. It was because the parents were similar to the cat.
Lila then concluded that odd parents make odd children but that being strange was not so bad in itself—they were just different, which could be either good or bad. The trouble of course, was figuring out which was which, but as long as they were nice and fed her and she was not scared, then she felt that they were fine. This was a big revelation for Lila—strange could be fine and the people that were strange could be fine, just in a different way from Mama and Papa and her. She was relieved, finally, that she got this settled in her mind because she was afraid it was going to be another some number over sixty kind of problem.
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