Vulpes Libris

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.

Foxly’s Feast by Owen Davey

foxleys_feastFoxly’s tummy is rumbling…

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.

4 comments on “Foxly’s Feast by Owen Davey

  1. rosyb
    May 31, 2013

    I’m with you on the illustrations – the cover looks cool!

  2. Jackie
    June 1, 2013

    I’d never heard of this one before & am glad it’s about an actual fox. I really like the cover drawing & am hoping I can find a copy at the library to see the rest of the artwork. It’s very appealing. And a book without words is a unique concept, but it makes sense that the reader would learn a lot about themselves that way.
    You always find such deep & hidden meanings in these kids books, which makes your reviews even more enjoyble.

  3. Lisa
    June 2, 2013

    Cheers Jackie and Rosy! I think you’d both really enjoy the illustrations in this one.

  4. Dana Shepard
    June 2, 2013

    The story is never the same, although the theme is. It is a long book, so i sometimes only get through a few pages, but as mentioned it is never dull. What a clever way to make the story telling – a two way conversation.

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2013 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: children's, Uncategorized.



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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