I want to give Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault to all the preteen and teen girls. Especially the bookish ones.
To break down the characters in the title:
We have Jane, as in Jane Eyre.
We have the fox, the animal the main character encounters at her school’s nature camp.
And we have Me, Helene, our protagonist.
The interweaving of the two! This book is original, sensitive, and a deeply relevant stunner.
Helene feels all alone, and bullied. Her world is black and white and cold. The other girls invent insults that make her heart hammer and open up holes in her rib cage.
But Helene has a “creeping vine of an imagination.” In the book she reads, Jane Eyre, in her mind when she thinks of it, there’s color. Sweeping, lush color so unlike her world.
The way Helene holds her head—down, ashamed—is heartbreaking. As are the little hints of how she sees herself in the mirror. How she relates to sweets and candy. How she feels when trying on a bathing suit for nature camp. But I love the way her tired, but loving mother is a bright spot. As well as the true to life specific details Britt includes in every spread.
Helene is in despair. But she’s able to compare herself to plain Jane Eyre and, I think, see hope.
Then, the fox.
“With the fox out front,
the outcasts’ tent is transformed
into a tent of miracles.”
Then, the friend. Geraldine.
“We spend an hour together looking for strawberries,
I tell the story of the fox.
I tell jokes.
I haven’t had a conversation this long in months.”
Then, the facts. That Helene is not as she’s feared: unlovable, disgusting, or a sausage. She’s a growing girl. The kind of girl a fox in the woods might approach. The kind of girl who can have a friend. The kind of girl who, like Jane Eyre, might be capable of giving and receiving love.
Please read this book and pass it along.
Thanks to Groundwood Books for the images!
And see my first installment in PICTURE BOOKS FOR THE OLDER SET HERE.