Not all relationships are sweet and beautifully packaged like a heart shaped box of chocolates. Some are messy, like chocolates left out in the sun, smeared all over the pavement like you know what. Keep reading…
Fox written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ron Brooks is a modern fable about love, friendship, jealousy, betrayal and loyalty. Living in the Australian scrub, Dog is blind in one eye and Magpie can no longer fly. Their friendship begins out of necessity but grows into something more. All summer and winter Dog becomes Magpie’s wings and Magpie becomes Dog’s eyes as they run through the Australian scrub. They are content and at peace until the day Fox arrives. Fox brings with him the smell of rage, envy, and loneliness. Magpie can feel Fox staring at her burnt wing, always watching her. While Dog is asleep, Fox whispers to Magpie, “I can run faster than Dog. Faster than the wind.” Every night Fox quietly tempts Magpie and every night she replies, “ I will never leave Dog. I am his missing eye and he is my wings.” Such resolve by Magpie only drives Fox’s determination to destroy Magpie and Dog’s friendship and love for another.
Margaret Wild’s words are haunting and beautiful. She has the amazing ability to evoke deep emotions in her reader. I think this story has too many layers for a child to comprehend. The lack of experience will make it hard for a child to understand just how complicated and messy love and friendship can get.
Ron Brook’s illustrations match the voice in the writing; they are messy and complex. Each illustration is built with layers of collage, bits and pieces of different papers, thick applications of paints, and a variety of different mediums. Instead of drawing with pens, pencils or whatever, Ron etched, gouged, scratched, and scraped the illustrations with whatever tool was at hand: dental tools, forks, sandpaper, wire, and scraps of rusted tin. Such effect creates a sense of movement and captures the raw intense emotions of the story. The setting of the Australian landscapes is brought to life with deep earthy colours, reds, orange, browns, and blacks. Even the lettering is treated like art. Using his left hand to give the lettering an uneven quality, Ron hand wrote the story. The text appears to have been physically etched into the artwork and haphazardly arranged on the pages.
Fox, a children’s book review by Thao Lam
Author Margaret Wild
Margaret Wild is born in 1948 in the small town of Eschew, in South Africa and migrated to Australia in 1972, where she currently resides in Sydney. Margaret was a journalist for newspapers and magazines and then she worked for sixteen years as a book editor in children’s publishing. As a writer, she is known for tackling difficult subjects in children’s literature: death, dying, grief, and fear but her somber stories always have an underlying sense of hope. Understanding sad and scary situations empowers children by teaching how to cope during tough times.
Illustrator Ron Brooks
Ron Brooks is one of Australia’s top illustrators but very little is known about him. My research on the acclaimed artist came up empty handed. If anyone out there has any info, please share.
Publisher Kane/Miller Book Publishers (October 2001)