This heart-warming story begins on the first morning of the first month of the year 1900. The Frost family is struggling to make ends meet on their small farm. A change in their fortune occurs when 9-year-old Peter finds a strange ivory stick in a nearby stream and befriends its owner, Ninnyhammer, a homeless old man regarded as a simpleton by the local villagers. Appearances can be deceptive, however, and Peter soon discovers that there is more to Ninnyhammer than meets the eye. The cows on the Frost farm begin to yield more milk, the hens lay more eggs and the sow produces a record twelve piglets! By the end of the story even the initially sceptical Farmer Frost comes to believe in the power of magic, and Ninnyhammer becomes a firm family friend.
Traditional turn-of-the-century rural life is beautifully rendered, and the friendship between the young boy and the old man touchingly portrayed. The literary motif of the wise fool effectively highlights social prejudice against those who are different. A strong element of wish fulfilment accounts for much of the appeal of this book. A possible weakness is that Peter’s wishes are so easily granted, with minimal effort on his part. Nevertheless, it is his belief in Ninnyhammer’s magic, which others fail to recognise, that enables it to happen. The real magic of this book, however, lies in its enchanting evocation of the wonder of nature: the newness of the earth after rain, the miracle of newborn piglets, the music of birdcalls. It is ideal for newly independent readers ready to make the transition from storybooks to chapter books. It has an attractive and durable hardback cover and suitably traditional black and white illustrations. Age: 5–7