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Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
The Devil and the Darning Needle by David Scott Lillis is a charming fable for children. It tells the mythical story of why dragonflies have the ability to fly - because the Devil bestows the ability of flight upon them in exchange for their agreement to leave harmful and negative messages or whispers in the ears of humans. Once all their whispers are spent, the Devil gives them the gift of rest before they die and are reborn to repeat a similar life. Nigel is a beautiful and large dragonfly but discovers he can fly anyway and refuses Ditch's (the Devil's agent) whispers. More than that, he begins leaving good messages in the ears of humans instead, and takes on the burdensome messages of fellow dragonfly, Reardon. Nigel has to encounter the wrath of the Devil for doing this, and then makes an interesting discovery that is the beginning of a different way of life for all dragonflies.
I loved The Devil and the Darning Needle: an intriguing fable that has a lovely message about thinking for yourself, being true to yourself, using instincts for good, and making a stand for something better. There is the hint of a Christian theme with Nigel carrying Reardon's burdens/whispers for him so that he can be free. David Scott Lillis has created well depicted characters and children will warm to the heroic Nigel. It is easy to be drawn into the story as the plot unfolds. It moves along at a good pace and builds to its climax when the dragonflies meet with the Devil and Nigel makes his escape. The author weaves a moral thread carefully through the tale, using the traits and situations of the different characters to put this across. The black and white illustrations are the perfect complement to this well crafted story too. A story that is not only entertaining but one that teaches children good values, including recognizing we are free to make choices, and the importance and consequences of those choices.