cover image Jane, the Fox, and Me

Jane, the Fox, and Me

Fanny Britt, trans. from the French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $19.95 (104p) ISBN 978-1-55498-360-5

The pain that cruel schoolmates inflict on solitary, book-loving girls is familiar territory, but Britt and Arsenault’s take on it is worth a second look. Tormented by her classmate Geneviève—“I stuck a fork in your butt, but you’re so fat you didn’t feel a thing!!”—Hélène retreats into the pages of Jane Eyre. “Everyone needs a strategy,” she observes, “even Jane Eyre.” Arsenault (Virginia Wolf) uses velvety reds and blacks for Hélène’s ruminations on Brontë’s novel; elsewhere, she renders landscapes, interiors, and portraits of Hélène and her classmates in delicate grays. A small miracle presages change as Hélène is approached by a wild fox on a school camping trip: “Its eyes are so kind I just about burst.” Then a classmate named Géraldine absconds (not entirely believably) from the mean girls and befriends Hélène. Arsenault signals the change by introducing the fragile green of new leaves into her monochromatic landscapes. Subordinate characters are lovingly drawn, and time and place references (the McGarrigle Sisters, the Bay department store) add piquancy. More than a few readers will recognize themselves in Hélène and find comfort. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)