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I read this book in the mid-2000s, maybe 2006?, in the USA. It was in English, and it was a paperback middle-grade chapter book, maybe 200 pages long.

The main character is a girl who learns to build fairy houses from someone significant in her life, maybe an aunt, cousin, neighbor, or friend. At some point in the story, this person leaves.

Over the course of the story, the girl spends more and more time outside building fairy houses. It's implied (or maybe stated outright, I forget) that she spends so much time outside to escape a bad situation at home. At some point, I think she waits on a stoop for a long time, though I forget what she was waiting for.

At the end of the book, the girl walks outside without a weather-appropriate article of clothing (maybe a jacket or shoes), and she remarks that fairies don't feel the cold. It's suggested that she is/is becoming/is associating herself with the fairies.

I seem to remember it being misty and cool a lot in the book. It took place in the modern era, in the real world, in a suburban or urban neighborhood setting. When reading it, I remember being unsure if the fairies actually existed or if the girl just wanted to believe in them.

When I search for book about fairy houses, most results are light-hearted and cute. This book had a more serious tone, although it wasn't very dark or disturbing.

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Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle looks like a match.

Description from goodreads.com:

Hillary doesn't believe all the mean things she hears about Sara-Kate. Sure, she wears weird clothes and she lives in a dumpy house, but if Sara-Kate's as bad as everyone says, how could she take such good care of the elf village in her backyard? She and Hillary spend hours fixing the tiny stick houses and the miniature Ferris wheel so the elves won't move away. But as Hillary is drawn further into Sara-Kate's world, she learns there are other mysteries besides the elves. Why doesn't anyone ever see Sara-Kate's mother? And why isn't anyone allowed in her house?

Quote:

"Elves don't get cold," Sara-Kate said.
"Everybody gets cold."
"Not elves," Sara-Kate said proudly. "They like being outside. They have thick skins. They never go inside until they have to. Houses are too hot for elves. They can't breathe right."

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  • This is it, thank you! The ambiguous way the elves are written about matches exactly with what I remember, and the tone seems right, too. Now that I read through the description, the ferris wheel made of a bike tire and the boots that the girl always wears also match up with what I remember. I supposed I got fairies and elves mixed up.
    – Reader12
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 2:47

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