cover image FOX

FOX

Margaret Wild, Author, Ron Brooks, Illustrator , illus. by Ron

Wild (Nighty Night) departs from her playful characters of recent books for this haunting look at friendship and cruelty, geared to older readers. After Dog saves Magpie from a fire and nurses her burnt wing, the two forge a powerful bond. The one-eyed dog and the flightless bird travel together across a charred, leafless landscape, with Magpie feeling the wind in her feathers as she rides on Dog's back. "Fly, Dog, fly! I will be your missing eye, and you will be my wings." The mood changes quickly, however, when Fox enters—his sleek, orange body curled around one side of a spread—and sets Magpie on edge ("His smell seems to fill the cave—a smell of rage and envy and loneliness"). The tension Wild invokes in juxtaposing their disparate emotions creates a disquieting feeling that Brooks (Rosie and Tortoise) mirrors in his artwork, especially in close-ups of the characters' eyes. His hand-lettered text (resembling a child's shaky penmanship) appears in oddly positioned blocks, with some flipped vertically against the page edges and gutter. The stark illustrations, in mixed media and collage, expose the characters' raw emotions with brusque hash marks in thick applications of mostly dark paint. Only when Fox cons Magpie into switching her allegiance and traveling with him do readers discover the depth of Fox's alienation. The tale ends on a tenuously hopeful note, and the images from this unsettling, provocative story will resonate long after the book has been closed. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)