A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
He’s looking for a fantastic feast and has some big ideas, but could there be more to Foxly than meets the eye?
Tuck into this tasty wordless adventure.
Well, what could be more appealing to this Bookfox than a book about a fox? What’s more, in my Vulpes Libris profile I am listed as a vegetarian Bookfox, and the eponymous Foxly is a vegetarian fox. To quote Sleepless in Seattle, this book and I are MFEO: Made For Each Other.
Even so, I think we have to take a moment to ponder the idea of a wordless book. I have heard writers say that a book reads you as much as you read a book, and that notion is even more relevant here, as you, the reader, are asked to bring your own words to the story. Because of this, the story fluctuates and mutates; it is different every single time a child and adult sit down to read it, and there is something magical about this, as it encourages the reader to delve deep into their own imagination, rather than be spoon-fed a narrative by a stranger.
So, this is not an easy book, even if one of the cover quotes from The Bookseller Children’s Buyers Guide does peg it as a book to encourage reluctant readers. There is work to be done here; interpretation, comprehension, empathy and vocabulary are all exercised. This is an invitation to see, to understand and to weave your own story. Due to the work demanded of the reader, the story takes longer to complete than worded picture books of equivalent length, but I’m always glad to spend time in Foxly’s world, and the extra reading time is a pleasure, not a chore.
In common with most picture books for pre-school readers, there is a moral of the story, and anyone who’s ever pre-judged a person, or made an assumption based on a first glance, will wince a little as they realise they’ve done it once again, in making assumptions about dear Foxly.
To quote the author, who is interviewed here for the “My First Poem” website:
I wanted to do a wordless narrative that allowed for ambiguous translations of the images and ensured that parents and kids had to think for themselves. You have to discuss the book, instead of reading it. They see the fox. They see he is hungry. They see that he’s looking at other animals. Given the knowledge that foxes tend to eat the other creatures in the book, people assume the worst about Foxly, only to be proven wrong at the end. It was important to me that Foxly wasn’t misjudged by another character in the book, but rather by the readers themselves. It forces children (and adults alike) to question their own preconceptions.
Which seems rather admirable to me.
I can’t finish this review without giving a thumbs-up to the muted palette, retro-look artwork, since Foxly’s Feast has some of the most stylish illustrations I’ve ever seen in a picture book. And, yes, I realise this review is quickly losing all critical distance and turning into a rave recommendation, but the illustrations are really something. I’m trying hard to think of negative points to mention, but failing; the book even smells beautiful (to be precise: it smells exactly like the lovely gift shop at The Eden Project).
In conclusion, Foxly’s Feast is a smart book that manages to speak volumes without using a single word. For me, the very best endorsement is that my three-year-old daughter (who pores over the drawings of Foxly and his friends every night) has decided that she’s not scared of foxes, after all.
Templar Publishing, 32 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1848771321, paperback, £5.99.