Jane, the Fox, and Me

Overview


Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies — Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she ...
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Overview


Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies — Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to allow her to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship.

Leaving the outcasts’ tent one night, Hélène encounters a fox, a beautiful creature with whom she shares a moment of connection. But when Suzanne Lipsky frightens the fox away, insisting that it must be rabid, Hélène’s despair becomes even more pronounced: now she believes that only a diseased and dangerous creature would ever voluntarily approach her. But then a new girl joins the outcasts’ circle, Géraldine, who does not even appear to notice that she is in danger of becoming an outcast herself. And before long Hélène realizes that the less time she spends worrying about what the other girls say is wrong with her, the more able she is to believe that there is nothing wrong at all.

This emotionally honest and visually stunning graphic novel reveals the casual brutality of which children are capable, but also assures readers that redemption can be found through connecting with another, whether the other is a friend, a fictional character or even, amazingly, a fox.

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The pain that cruel schoolmates inflict on solitary, book-loving girls is familiar territory, but Britt and Arsenault’s take on it is worth a second look. Tormented by her classmate Geneviève—“I stuck a fork in your butt, but you’re so fat you didn’t feel a thing!!”—Hélène retreats into the pages of Jane Eyre. “Everyone needs a strategy,” she observes, “even Jane Eyre.” Arsenault (Virginia Wolf) uses velvety reds and blacks for Hélène’s ruminations on Brontë’s novel; elsewhere, she renders landscapes, interiors, and portraits of Hélène and her classmates in delicate grays. A small miracle presages change as Hélène is approached by a wild fox on a school camping trip: “Its eyes are so kind I just about burst.” Then a classmate named Géraldine absconds (not entirely believably) from the mean girls and befriends Hélène. Arsenault signals the change by introducing the fragile green of new leaves into her monochromatic landscapes. Subordinate characters are lovingly drawn, and time and place references (the McGarrigle Sisters, the Bay department store) add piquancy. More than a few readers will recognize themselves in Hélène and find comfort. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustration (French)
Finalist for the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Children
Finalist for the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award
New York Times Best Illustrated Books
New York Public Library Books for Reading and Sharing
YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
Globe and Mail Best Books

"Loneliness is a language that doesn’t need translation....It’s a language understood by anyone who has endured the interminable wait for a Géraldine of her own." — The New York Times

"Readers will be delighted to see Helene’s world change as she grows up, learning to ignore the mean girls and realizing that, like Jane, she is worthy of friendship and love." — School Library Journal, starred review

"Hélène’s emotional tangle is given poignant expression through Arsenault’s pitch-perfect mixed-media art . . . [Her] story is sweetly comforting and compelling." — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"Britt’s poetic prose captures Hélène’s heartbreaking isolation . . . [A] brutally beautiful story." — Horn Book, starred review

A New York Times Best Illustrated Book

"Loneliness is a language that doesn’t need translation....It’s a language understood by anyone who has endured the interminable wait for a Géraldine of her own." — The New York Times

"Readers will be delighted to see Helene’s world change as she grows up, learning to ignore the mean girls and realizing that, like Jane, she is worthy of friendship and love." — School Library Journal, Starred Review

"Hélène’s emotional tangle is given poignant expression through Arsenault’s pitch-perfect mixed-media art . . . [Her] story is sweetly comforting and compelling." — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred Review
 
"There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today.
Not in the halls at school or out in the schoolyard or even in the far stairway, the one leading to art class that smells like sour milk.
They're everywhere, just like their insults scribbled on the walls."
— from the book

From the Publisher

"There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today.
Not in the halls at school or out in the schoolyard or even in the far stairway, the one leading to art class that smells like sour milk.
They're everywhere, just like their insults scribbled on the walls."
— from the book
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
The taunts and insults follow Hélène in the halls, the schoolyard, even into the washroom where someone scribbled, “She smells like BO!” Her overworked, single mother makes her a crinoline dress too late for it still to be a fad and shopping for a bathing suit makes her feel like a fat sausage. There is no respite when the class goes on an overnight camping trip and Hélène is quickly relegated to the nerd group. Escape from the loneliness and exile comes from the pages of Jane Eyre who grew up to be “clever, slender, and wise.” No one ever called Jane an ugly duckling and from this unlikely heroine Hélène draws her strength. Just as Jane’s difficult life evolves into a happy ever after with Mr. Rochester, Hélène is rescued from the mean girls by Géraldine, an outcast like herself, who offers her the gift of friendship. Together anything is possible even surviving the gang of snobs. Any young girl who has ever been bullied or has had body image issues will identify with Hélène. Her story, told in graphic novel format, speaks volumes as to how confidence-crushing cruel words can be. The black and white and sepia sketches give way to hues of blue, red, and black when she imagines the life of Jane Eyre from the words of the novel. Warm blues and greens color her world when she embraces the friendship of Géraldine and a future that she believes will end well. That the story is set in Montreal is immaterial and the translation from French is flawless. Young teens who find themselves the subject of bullying will find comfort here and those who may be inclined to use cruel words will find food for thought. Middle school guidance counselors would do well to add this to their collection. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey; Ages 12 to 14.
School Library Journal
★ 11/01/2013
Gr 7 Up—Helene is unhappy with her life and prefers to escape into books. At school, she is tormented by the insults of her former friends. The book shifts back and forth between Helene's reality and the world she enters whenever she reads Jane Eyre and begins imagining herself in the character's place. Helene admires Jane, who is "clever, slender and wise," who is loved by others even though she is not a traditional beauty. The style of Arsenault's artwork varies if Helene is in the real world, in the fictional world of Jane Eyre, or if she's inspired by something that makes the real world better. The illustrations are expressive and accomplished, shifting back and forth between urban and natural environments, between black and white and radiant colors. Readers will be delighted to see Helene's world change as she grows up, learning to ignore the mean girls and realizing that, like Jane, she is worthy of friendship and love. The large size of this book might be off-putting, but it is a special one for special readers.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Lonely young Hélène begins to get out from under her body-image issue with help from a new friend--and Jane Eyre. Weighed down by cruel graffiti ("Hélène weighs 216!"--a figure belied, later, by the "88" on a doctor's scale but not before the damage is done) as well as looks and snickers from her former circle, Hélène walks slump-shouldered and isolated through a dreary world rendered in sepia wash. A class trip to nature camp brings no relief, as it entails a painful expedition to buy a swimsuit ("I'm a sausage") and then exile to the "outcasts' tent." Only following Jane Eyre's growth into a woman "clever, slender and wise" lightens her spirit. Then a brief encounter with a fox and the arrival of Géraldine, an extroverted fellow camper, signal at last the beginnings of a brighter outlook. Hand-lettered but easily legible, her sparely told narrative suits the swiftly drawn look of the art. Ably capturing Hélène's emotional tides, Arsenault portrays her (as a child of plainly average build) in dark sequential panels that give way when she's reading or dreaming to full spreads, usually in subdued tones of orange and blue. Those colors and others show up as highlights in closing scenes that are capped by a final glimpse of the bright fox amid burgeoning greenery. A sensitive and possibly reassuring take on a psychological vulnerability that is all too common and not easily defended. (Graphic novel. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554983605
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2013
  • Pages: 104
  • Sales rank: 207,626
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Fanny Britt is a playwright, author and translator. She has a dozen plays to her credit. She has also translated over fifteen contemporary plays and several other works of literature. She writes children’s books and has published, among others, the Félicien series with La Courte Échelle. Jane, the Fox and Me is her first graphic novel. She lives in Montreal with her family.

Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator, who has garnered an impressive number of awards and international recognition. She has illustrated several books, including Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin (Governor General’s Award) and My Letter to the World and Other Poems (Governor General’s Award Finalist, IRA Children’s Choices), and she has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running.

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