cover image Finding Foxes

Finding Foxes

Brenda Jackson, Ronald L. McDonald, Allison Blyler. Philomel Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22264-1

In spite of Blake's striking gouache paintings of foxes in the countryside, this picture book lacks coherence and is bound to confuse young readers. After seven short descriptions of the fox as it moves from a ``circle of sunlight'' to being ``cruelly red, / in a knife of sun'' as it kills a rabbit, the poet abruptly announces, ``the fox / knows / what is real, / imagined.'' While Blyler's imagery is sometimes apt, her attempt to ``weave an imagination of foxes'' is as perplexing as her sudden, unsatisfying conclusion: ``I do not know / the ways of / the fox. / I ask / the river.'' The ideas are incomplete and the point of view and verb tenses shift inexplicably. Although Blake does the best he can with abstruse lines like ``If I imitate / the fox, / I cannot / change him,'' he sometimes simply goes his own way--as when the ``green fox'' Blyler describes is painted reddish brown. By including hidden foxes in the pictures, Blake attempts to make the book more interesting, but the problems inherent in the murky text are impossible to overcome. Ages 4-8. (May)