Monday, May 28, 2012
In my continuing effort to read all the books in the anthology 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, I took home Fox, written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ron Brooks. I'd never heard of the book before but minutes after reading it, I can't get it out of my mind. I'm haunted by this book.
The story is simple about a magpie with a burnt wing that can't fly and a one-eyed dog who has trouble seeing. The two are the best of friends and protect each other. Each day the magpie sits on the dogs back while he runs so she can feel like she's flying and the dog has a second pair of eyes to see. "Fly Dog Fly! I will be your missing eye, and you will be my wings." It's a sweet friendship based on need and tenderness. When a fox arrives, the magpie is worried. And it becomes even more worrisome when the Fox tells the magpie to ride on his back to really feel like she's flying. Magpie resists for a time. She's loyal to Dog. But finally she gives in. Fox takes her for a long fast ride until he reaches the desert. I won't give you the ending. It was not something I was expecting. It's the reason I'm haunted by this book. I can't stop thinking about where and how the author ends the book. I loved this tale of sweet friendship and betrayal. And I can't shake it.
Ron Brooks' illustrations are rough and haunting as well. He uses multiple wispy lines to create the characters and the setting. Brooks hand lettered the book to give it a very primative feel. In fact the whol books seems like a folklore tale. An Aesop's story in vivid color. The colors are lovely. Brooks uses multiple media to create both his characters and the worlds they live in. The cave and the desert and the woods are represented with the same wispy lines but look distinctly different.
I've read several books since reading Fox and although there are many that I've wanted to write about, this story pushed it's way to the top. It's not the kind of story that I typically like although the friendship is wonderfully rendered. I loved Dog, loyal Dog with his one white sightless eye. He is presented as quintessential dog. But this story would have been something that I'd read and considered done if it wasn't for the ending. I'm haunted by it. I can't stop thinking about Magpie and Dog. And for me that is why this book is powerful. It's one of the more powerful picture books I've read in a while.