Review Blog

May 03 2017

Maybe a fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

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Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406372892
(Age: Upper primary - lower secondary) Highly recommended. Even if this story had been written by one author, readers would marvel at the skill and craftsmanship of the writing. Instead it is a collaboration, all the more impressive for that because: a singular voice rings out across the book; there are no stylistic fluctuations along the way; and the narrative development is seamless. This is despite being a complicated story, with several threads weaving through. The central story is about Jules coming to terms with the tragic and pointless death of her sister; this is the second tragedy her family suffers and she and her Dad stay strong to support each other. Other stories intertwine with this: Sam, the school friend, hopeful for the return of the long-unseen catamount; his older brother, Elk, returned from Afghanistan, but mourning a best friend who didn't; the rambling yearling bear that brings out the local hunters; the dangers and mysteries of the Slip, where the river disappears into an underground cauldron for a while, and the legendary but unfound Grotto, both of which hold resolutions to these interlacing stories. But these resolutions don't come so simply and comfortably. Like weft across braiding threads the tale of Senna is thrown; Senna, the vixen of three kits born just as Sylvie disappears; Senna of a mythical fox world, a Kennen with connection to the human world. And her connection is Jules. The fabric shimmers and tightens as these stories intersect and move to a compelling conclusion that answers the question in the title. Because of the implied middle school readership of the book it is important to mention not a spoiler but an alert: perhaps this story goes one tragedy too far. The ending is traumatic, with an achingly-sad last chapter that is hard to bear. Other choices could have been made that would have been uplifting and hopeful and still been satisfying. With that one caution this extraordinary book is highly recommended for upper primary and lower secondary readers.
Kerry Neary

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