Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam
Gorgeously illustrated, this wordless picture book invites readers into a snowy world. A fox finds her way into a village, warm lit against the cold snow that is falling. She is shooed away by several people but discovers an open greenhouse. A little boy sees her enter and brings her a basket of food. Now there is a fox with four baby foxes nursing. Soon after, the mother fox leads her kits to the boy’s room where they plant flowers from the greenhouse into his rug which he discovers in the morning. The five foxes disappear back into the woods.
Done in cut-paper illustrations, the images have a beautiful 3-D quality to them. You want to stroke the page and think that you will be able to lift flaps, so strong are the images. Against the white and gray snow and woods, the characters pop. The fox gloriously orange in the snow and the little boy wearing red.
Camcam lights her paper work beautifully as well, almost as if it were a stage. She conveys the welcoming warmth of the light in the village, the yellow of the windows lit against the storm. More subtly, she plays with shadows and underlighting in specific scenes, showing the cold and the night clearly.
This is a haunting picture book, done with an immense delicacy and skill. Simply beautiful. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam, illustrated by Culpeo S. Fox
A new version of a classic Aesop fable, this picture book explores the tale of Fox and Crow. Crow is all set to perch with his fellows on a wire but then smells the bread cooling in a window below. Down he swoops and heads into the woods with it. But Fox is there too, sneaking along. Fox howls, singing beneath Crow. Crow must respond in song, opens his mouth and down falls the bread into Fox’s waiting mouth below. It’s a tale we all know, but told in such a masterful way that it is made new again.
Subramaniam’s text adds to the drama of this short tale. This is writing with lushness and body, using words that will stretch young children in just the right way. Words like raucous, wafting, twilight and temptress fill the story and enrich it. They cleverly play up the darkness, the wildness and the tricks that are being played.
Fox’s illustrations are just as rich and dark. Each illustration is a painting that stands on its own in composition and beauty. Fox uses spatters to add texture to his deep color palette that evokes the encroaching twilight and evening. On some pages the colors of the sunset enter, adding more drama.
A reinvention of an old tale, this is an incredible new telling. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Goose the Bear by Katja Gehrmann
In a Canadian forest, Fox stole an almost-hatched goose egg, planning to eat roast goose very soon. But he is so proud of himself that he forgets to watch where he’s going and runs right into Bear. Bear picked up the egg from the ground after Fox ran off and wondered what it is. Then the gosling hatched and called him “Mama!” Bear tried to explain that they were not the same type of animal, but the gosling did not understand. So Bear decided to show the little goose just how different they were. Bear demonstrated how well bears climb trees, but the gosling could reach the top too. Bear showed how fast bears can run, but the little goose ran just as quickly. Finally, Bear jumped in the river and the little goose followed him in. Then Bear got very worried. Would the little creature survive the fall into the water?
Gehrmann has created a picture book that stands out from the many books about foxes chasing smaller animals. Her addition of a bear as a main character adds a clever twist and throughout the book she continues to surprise the reader. The writing has been done to create a read-aloud that will also keep young readers guessing about what is going to happen next. With the theme of a tiny creature who can do just what a big bear can do, this book has strong kid appeal.
The premise of the book is quite unique and so is the artwork. First published in Germany, the book has a European feel, particularly in the art. It is humorous and bold with changing colors throughout. Gehrmann’s depiction of the natural world around the characters is particularly rich and layered.
Fresh, vibrant and full of fun surprises, this book is an exceptional take on fox and goose (and bear) stories. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
In this quiet book, Bear blames the moon for not being able to fall asleep. So he pulls it out of the sky. Fox notices that the moon is gone and so do Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon. Crow asks Fox why he doesn’t know where the moon is, since he’s so clever. So Fox takes them all to talk to Owl who is wise. Owl knows where the moon is, since he saw Bear take it. So they head off to retrieve the moon from Bear. But how will they get it away from him?
This book has a wonderfully clear and simple story line that makes it ideal to use with toddlers. It also has a deep quiet to it that will work for good bedtime or naptime reading. Kherdian uses repetition throughout the story, having the different animals share ideas and echo back decisions.
Hogrogian’s art also has that simple style. She has wonderful images like the one on the cover that speak to the darkness and loss of the moon. Her animals are realistically depicted and appear against white or tan backgrounds with few details.
There is a place for quiet books for small children and this one has just enough activity to keep it moving too. It would make a great board book. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Foxy! by Jessica Souhami
This North American version of a universal trickster tale is given a fresh but still classic take in this new picture book. Foxy caught a bee and put it in a sack. He met a woman with a rooster and asked her to look after his sack while he went to visit a friend, but insisted that she not look in the sack. Of course, the woman did look in and the bee flew off. So the Fox demanded her rooster in exchange. This pattern continues with Foxy leaving the sack with another person and exchanging one animal for an even more large and tasty one. Until he finally gets a little boy in his sack and meets up with a woman who understands how to trick a trickster.
Souhami incorporates rhythm and repetition into her story in a way that makes it a pleasure to read aloud. Each new animal is gained in the much the same way with the structure carrying through from one to the next. The result is a story that dances along with the wily fox, the readers able to settle into the traditional feel of the tale.
This would make a great choice for turning into storytelling, though it would be a shame to lose the bright and vibrant cut-paper illustrations seen here. They have a great crispness to them that translates well to a group.
Perfection for reading aloud, this story is designed to be shared. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Abby has always been on the outskirts of her group of friends, considered the fat one who could be teased endlessly about her weight. She has to be careful not to give her real opinion and to always toe the line set by the group leader. Privately, she considers them to be “medium girls” and nothing special, but they are her friends. As Abby starts to investigate the abandoned lot across from her house, she gets gently bitten by a fox. It is from that point on that she is no longer content to be a medium girl herself. Following the fox and then a dog, Abby discovers a creek she never knew was in her neighborhood and then a farm on the other side. A boy lives there with his grandmother and his father who is recovering from battle in Afghanistan. As their friendship grows, Abby gains self confidence and is able to give a lot back too.
This book had me from the very first page. Told from the point of view of the fox, the first short chapter invites readers to speaks to the power of story, the role of fabled characters in our lives, and moments when the real world and myths intertwine. It sets the stage perfectly for what is to come. This is a realistic story that has magic and myth moments. The writing is outstanding, bringing magic into our world through empty lots filled with weeds, foxes who live in urban settings, edges of suburbs, and newfound friends.
Abby is a great character. She is chubby and ridiculed for it by not only her friends but her parents. Yet she has a quiet strength, an underlying confidence, that allows her to withstand those opinions and grow into the person she really is. She is a wonderfully normal child, not the brightest, not the strongest, but one who is willing to see beyond the weeds to the flowers.
This is a radiant book that celebrates the quiet, the mythical, the connections that are too often missed in our rush. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.