Love. The Fox (Magnetic Press)
Written by Frederic Brrémaud
Illustrated by Federico Bertolucci
From time to time I find myself staring at my double screens in my basement office, wondering why I’m not lying in the grass on an island paradise and watching the fauna go about their daily business. Then I opened the pages of Love. The Fox and I was there! This book is reminiscent of all the beautiful, animal stories that I read as a child (The Jungle Book, Cinnabar the One O’clock Fox, and Redwall all come to mind). From the first pages, I was enchanted.
The protagonist of this book, an unnamed fox, is clearly no stranger to a dangerous world. One eye is milky white and a scar slices through the lid above and below. The fox goes about daily tasks–mostly consisting of capturing food. The panels follow the fox, occasionally bumping into other, larger predators, and following them for a few panels. The art reminds me of David Peterson’s Mouseguard books, but is a little cleaner. For such simple, pretty artwork, Bertolucci captures the shapes of animals in motion realistically, and in a way that pulls the reader in. The curve of the fox’s spine as she leaps after a mouse; the twisting of torso and tail as an orca races after a seal; these are not easy actions to capture on camera, much less in a drawing.
After only a couple of pages of idyllic landscapes and beautiful forest creatures, the island erupts in lava and ash. Every living thing runs as fast and as far as it can. The book follows multiple creatures in their dashes for safety, and (in some cases) their encounters with other fleeing animals. I found myself frustrated that not all of the animals seemed to be running as far away from the opening rivers of lava as they should. This was perhaps the detail that stood out to me as the most realistic. In moments of natural disaster, even for humans with reasoning power, the noise, heat, and danger can be very confusing; this is even more true for animals, and unfortunately not all the animals in this book survive.
This book is absolutely gorgeous. The animals are driven by instinct and purpose, but are not at all anthropomorphized. The world they live in is violent, and that violence was not sugar coated in any way, but at the same time, that violence is not shown gratuitously. The more devastating animal encounters may go over the heads of very young children, but will be presented to older children as the true nature of Nature. The Magnetic hardcover edition is of course of the highest quality, and worthy of a prominent place on any collector’s shelf, and within easy reach of children. My one qualm is that there is absolutely no narration whatsoever, and I think some nuances of the story may be lost on the casual reader.
4.5 Death Stars