Saturday, May 14, 2016
Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a wonderful middle grade novel that has touches of Native American mythology.
Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.
At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.
Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful. -- Atheneum
Any time Kathi Appelt has a new book out, you can count on me to read it! I always appreciate her wise stories and writing. This time, Ms. Appelt has written a middle grade novel called MAYBE A FOX with her friend Alison McGhee. I am happy to say that it's a wonderful book -- one that earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
MAYBE A FOX is a special story with an incredibly unique premise. It's part realistic fiction/part myth, and it combines a grieving young girl and a fox cub. Jules and Sylvie are sisters that are extremely close, especially after the death of their mom. Jules looks up to Sylvie and wants to follow her everywhere; however, Sylvie is always wanting to run... and she's extremely fast. One day before school, Sylvie runs to a river (a river that the girls aren't supposed to visit) and she is never seen again!
Jules is besides herself -- first her mother and now her sister, and she's not ready to admit that her sister is gone. Her friend Sam and her father try to be there for Jules and stop her from blaming herself, while her neighbor Elk, a man who has recently returned from the war, is also trying to recover from his loss.
At the same time that Sylvie goes missing, a young fox is born in the woods near Jules' house. There is a special connection between the fox and Jules, and Jules believes that the fox is calling her to follow it. Despite her father's warnings, Jules ventures out after the fox and discovers a major surprise!
I really enjoyed MAYBE A FOX. It was a delightful read and the authors did a terrific job of merging Jules' story with the fox's. I'm not usually one for stories that include mythical realism; however, in the case of MAYBE A FOX, I thought it was perfectly done.
I will admit that my favorites parts of the novel were those that included Jules. The novel was told in alternate voices, both Jules' and the fox's; and it was interesting to see how the two worlds would come together. Jules was a wonderful young girl who was doing her best to deal with the loss of her sister and her mother, and I loved how much hope and faith she had. The fox was also a special little creature who helped Jules find some peace.
As a mom, I thought MAYBE A FOX was a beautiful story with some wonderful messages. While the story is full of hope and quite heartwarming, it does deal with the serious issue of loss. I felt as if the authors portrayed grief so well in this novel. I thought Jules' reactions to her losses was extremely realistic, but I also appreciated how well Elk's experiences in the war as well as coming back to his home were handled.
MAYBE A FOX should be part of school libraries and classrooms. In fact, I was thrilled to find a reading guide that is ideal for use by educators. There are not only twenty-nine (I think that's a record!) discussion questions, but also some wonderful ideas for "extension activities." Some of the themes that children might want to discuss include memories, sisterhood, friendship, grief, the effects of war, Native American mythology, and the symbols in the novel.
Overall, MAYBE A FOX was a delightful read. It is smart and heartwarming and perfect for middle grade readers.
Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this novel.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!