Maybe a Fox

25785754by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

It’s probably not a secret that I love foxes! This beautiful cover grabbed me at once and the jacket summary was so intriguing I had to spring for it! I struggle to define “magical realism” clearly but I think this qualifies. There are spirit animals and wish rocks mixed in with the woods of Vermont and two sisters catching the bus to school. There are beautifully concrete descriptions of fresh snow crunching down to the ice beneath it, and there are casual mentions of burning wishes and the return of a catamount. This story is just gorgeous but the writing is so simple if you aren’t careful you miss it. I loved it!

Sylvie and Jules are 12 and 11, fast and slow, halves of a whole. They lost their mother six years before, and Jules regrets that her memories are slipping away. Without Sylvie and Dad, she wouldn’t remember at all. Jules hates that Sylvie is always leaving her behind, but a fresh snowfall late in the spring brings them back together as they build snow families in their yard. Sylvie runs down to the river bordering their property to throw in a wish rock (a tradition) but she runs so fast she falls into the rushing water. At the same time, a fox kit named Senna is born. She is kennen–a spirit animal–and she knows her job is to comfort a sad human girl above her den.

These two stories are intertwined with Sam’s, a neighbor boy hoping his older brother Elk will return to his pre-war self now that he’s home. This tiny, vivid Vermont town of grieving people is heart-wrenching and hopeful, too. The sibling dynamics, the mythology surrounding the wish rocks, the fox family–all done with loud brushstrokes and soft moments of introspection. Jules asks big questions about loss and you’re left to decide answers for yourself. It’s hard to say more without spoilers. I wanted this story to be longer because I loved it so much–add it to your list!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Maybe a Fox is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker – Peter and Pax are inseparable, until Peter’s father enlists and orders Peter to get rid of the fox so that he can go live with his uncle. As soon as Peter arrives at his grandfather’s house, he knows it was a mistake to abandon Pax. He runs away to reunite with his fox. Pax is having adventures of his own as he waits for his boy to return. Neither of them will be quite the same when they find each other. See my review here.
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl – I confess I haven’t read this yet but I loved the movie (I know, I know). A clever fox must save his family from vindictive farmers with his most daring (perhaps fantastic?) plan yet.
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery – A stranded pilot encounters a little prince from space who comes to learn about life on Earth. This short book is incredible and enduring. See my review here.
  • Pegasus by Robin McKinley – A lengthy novel detailing two cultures that attempt to live symbiotically despite their near inability to communicate. Twelve-year-old princess Sylvi is more than ready to bond with her ceremonial pegasus. She knows that only with the help of translators will she and her pegasus be able to communicate and guide their nations together in peace. But Sylvi and Ebon can talk easily on their own, and it leads them both to wonder what other secrets lie between their nations and what it means for their alliance. In typical McKinley fashion there is intense world-building and subtle character development, but this is an immersive story that gets very enjoyable about 1/3 of the way through.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – This story about Carolina helping her family pack up her grandfather’s southwestern ranch to sell is incredibly well-done! Magical realism at its best. Carolina’s grandfather Serge is being put in an assisted living home against his will. His dementia is getting worse, and Carolina isn’t sure what to make of his strange story about bees “bringing back the rain.” Until bees start following her around. See my review here.

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