I broke a rule to review this book. In fact, I broke a couple. I don’t generally review books I can only access as a .pdf, because it’s no good for my eyes, and I don’t generally review books that don’t have an establised publisher behind them. Call it snobbery if you wish, but I like that someone else has filtered out the chaff and left me with the tasty literary wheat to get my chops around. There’s another reason, too, that I shy away from self-pub, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
But then I went and judged a book by it’s cover. The Fox and It reminded me so much of the easy readers of the late seventies and eighties, all stark lines and bright oranges, that I was curious too look inside.
The Fox and It tells a simple story, in verse, of a young fox pup whose inquisitive ways lead to him getting a jar stuck on his head. He’s rescued by passers-by and learns a lesson about doing as he’s told. The message of the narrative is part environmental, part warning to ignore parental advice at your peril.
As I said, there’s a reason why I don’t like to review books that aren’t publisher backed, and it’s evident in Lei’s verse: self-published works are rarely tightly enough edited.
Lei’s narrative is ideal for very young children; in a Real Life Bookshop it would be a board book aimed at kids of 18 to 36 months, a book to be read aloud to a toddler. Books to be read aloud must scan. Syllable counts and stresses must be uniform. One should not have to force a rhyme to work. This is where The Fox and It lets itself down; the rhythm is not a smooth one, the grammar is occasionally poor.
But! See how gosh-darn cute that little fox is! Lei’s illustrations are simple, colourful and gently humourous. Animals are rendered on the page better than humans, but this lends credence to the world the foxes inhabit and subtly underlines the implicit message that this world is not ours to do as we wish with.
The Fox and It is a sweet story for very young children. It’s available from the authors website.