Little Fox in the Forest

A wordless story that is a fantastical adventure and teaches a lesson about empathy.

Wordless picture book, fantasy
Interest level: PreK through grade 2
5 out of 5 stars

For show and tell at school, a young girl takes her beloved stuffed fox. A series of photographs show the reader that she has had this stuffed animal since she was a baby, and has taken it many places. While she plays on the swings, a real fox sneaks out of the nearby forest and steals away the girl’s toy. A pursuit through the forest ensues.
The colors in the illustrations are a key piece in the telling of the story. The scenes that take place in the girl’s home and school are all a bluish-gray shade. The stuffed animal fox is the same bluish-gray. The fox that appears on the playground is the only splash of a different color on the page. The fox is copper, with a yellow shirt. Then, as the girl enters the forest, a greenish-gray hue takes over, broken only by the bright colors of small animals wearing clothes. A reddish bird with a green striped shirt is seen in many of the pages.

As the girl searches for the fox, she begins to encounter more little animals wearing clothes. They are all very friendly and try to give her directions to help in her search. Going through a doorway in a hedge, she suddenly enters a brightly colored village of small animals wearing clothes. They live in rustic homes and have smal shops.

The girl finally locates the young fox, who is heartbroken as he returns the stolen stuffed animal. In an unselfish gesture, the girl gives her stuffed animal to the fox. The fox realizes this is a special gift, and in return gives the girl a stuffed unicorn that sat on the shelf near his bed. The final scene shows the two characters, each going to bed with their new gifts.
The fantastical world that Graegin has created works very well in the format of a wordless book. There is so much for children to see on each page, and the different colors for different parts of the world, really help tell the story.

Children have often had a special toy from their childhood that would be difficult to part with. They will be able to identify with the girl who wants her beloved animal back, but they will also have a good lesson in kindness to ponder as she gives the animal to the young fox. The idea that a new friendship may be more important than the toy is a wonderful seed of empathy that Graegin plants.

All in all, this is a delightful adventure that children of all ages will enjoy.

Little Fox in the Forest
by Stephanie Graegin
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017

Wolf in the Snow

A wordless story about two unlikely friends coming together to help each other.

Picture book, fiction, wordless
Interest level: K-3
4 out of 5 stars

A little girl who is lost in a snowstorm encounters a wolf cub who is lost as well. They come together to comfort each other as the girl struggles through the snow. They follow the howls of the wolves looking for the cub and the cub is reunited with his pack. As the girl struggles on through the snow, the pack follows her and ultimately keeps her safe when she collapses. The story ends with the girl’s dog and family calling for her until they locate her.

The idea of the two species mirroring each others behavior and taking care of each other when in need is special. I think some children will really like the story, but I have to admit it is a little dire. There is a lot of tension as the girl and wolf cub struggle, especially as the girl becomes so weak she falls in the snow and is unable to get up. That could be disturbing for some children.

I like Matthew Cordell’s illustrations, and the idea of inter species friendship. The theme of caring about others in need is important.

Wolf in the Snow
by Matthew Cordell
Feiwel and Friends, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-25007-636-6

Skunk on a String; 3 out of 5 stars #bookaday

by Thao Lam
Owlkids Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77147-131-2
Wordless picture book
Interest level: Preschool to grade 1
3 out of 5 stars

This wordless picture book begins with the endpapers inside the front cover. We see a single red balloon floating by, which joins larger balloon animals on the title page. As we turn to the first page of the story, a full page of cut-paper collage illustrations let us see that we have joined a parade, with costumed people holding large balloon animals. The next page has us closing in on some of the balloon animals, and we notice a little skunk, whose foot has gotten entangled in the red balloon string that we first saw inside the cover.

The remainder of the story follows poor skunk’s adventures as he floats through the city, getting shooed away, encountering animals in the zoo, and avoiding automobile traffic to be carried out of the city. Skunk’s expression show his anguish and fear as he encounters many different situations. There is a surprise ending, which could lead to some good discussions about how persistence and courage can help us develop as people.

Young children will love to study the whimsical collage illustrations to decode exactly what is happening and where skunk is going to go next. Don’t forget to check out the endpaper at the back of the book, to really tie the story all together from beginning to end.

Book review: The Chicken Thief; 4 out of 5 stars #bookaday

The Chicken Thief book coverby Beatrice Rodriguez
Wordless picture book
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 2
4 out of 5 stars

If you are going to review a book intended for a young reader, it is important to consider the work from that angle–how will a child interpret this story? The Chicken Thief is a wordless picture book that plays on stereotypes and how we expect characters to act.

A sneaky fox snatches up a helpless chicken, whose friends take up a cross-country chase to save their friend. Because the book features no text, it is up to the observant reader to notice character’s expressions and small actions, in order to realize that all is not as it would originally seem. Young readers will delight in figuring out what is going on before the characters do.

Some adult readers may be bothered by the abduction aspect, or the jilted spouse who is visibly upset when the story concludes, but those are understandings and emotions that adults bring to the story, and it is unlikely that children will draw these conclusions. This is a fun story that is meant to explore stereotypes and acting out of character.