Saturday 5 September 2020

Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault - Reviewed by Kelly McCaughrain

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, mainly because they’re hard to find and seem to be mostly about superheroes, sci-fi, horror or fantasy, which I’m not really into. So when I saw Jane, the Fox and Me, I grabbed it. 

This is a Middle Grade/YA story and, as with all Walker books, beautifully produced. It’s a lovely physical object, and it’s a treat to turn the pages. And the story is completely charming.

Helene is bullied by the Mean Girls at her school, who comment on her weight and ostracise her. When she has to go to nature camp with them, things just get worse. Her only solace is reading Jane Eyre, which is about a girl who is also alone, unloved, sent to a horrible school, and yet grows up to be ‘clever, slender and wise’ and loved by Mr Rochester.

It’s a simple story, with zero superheroes, but one of the things I like about graphic novels is that there are so few words that the writing has to be incredibly beautiful and efficient, and this is both.

The illustrations are just as essential to the story as the words, and they’re beautiful to look at. The use of colour is really effective, with Helene’s world rendered in greys and browns, while the world of Jane Eyre has strong reds and blues and black.

But little touches of colour start to bleed into Helene’s life, beginning with a red fox she encounters at camp, and suggest that there might be hope after all. 

I think this is a story that lots of kids (and probably lots of adults) will relate to, and its simple realism is made magical by the Jane Eyre references and the encounter with the fox. I loved that the ending is quiet, subtle and undramatic. There’s no big finale or showdown. The trees simply start to turn green, a Mean Girl waves as Helene passes, and we know that she’s going to be OK.

Based on this one, I’m definitely going to read Britt and Arsenault’s other collaboration, Louis Undercover. If you like graphic novels, you should check out Jane, the Fox and Me. Or if you’ve never read one before, this is a lovely place to start.

Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page




Pippa Goodhart said...

Wow! I must get that book. Thanks, Kelly. I hadn't come across graphic novels for this age group that weren't slam bang superhero kinds of stories.

Ann Turnbull said...

What a beautiful book! Thanks for this review.

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