Fox falls ill and dies, and his housemates Otter, Mole and Hare feel as if life can't go on without him. Talking about Fox's wisdom and kindness "made their hearts ache," writes Durant (Dear Tooth Fairy). "They fell into silence. And so it continued, sun and moon, moon and sun. There was only deep sadness in the house in the woods." Gliori (No Matter What) doesn't flinch from showing readers the most sorrowful parts of the story: the discovery of Fox's body, "still and cold" in the forest, his burial and the despair that envelops everyone that winter. But Gliori does not portray these scenes as scary or maudlin, because her candor grows out of the sense of empathy that has always been her hallmark. The story's shadow lifts when Squirrel visits in springtime, determined to shake the trio out of their isolation. "You know there's one thing I don't miss about Fox, and that's his cooking," she says, in an ingenious attempt at grief therapy. "Do you remember that awful pie he made?" That remark prompts Otter, Hare and Mole to recall with affection Fox's other foibles as a cook, a handyman and a gardener. With the departed friend restored to their hearts and thoughts as a real, rather than idealized, figure, they can finally come to terms with his loss. Gliori and Durant leave readers with the comforting image of the housemates gathered in a garden created in Fox's memory, savoring a beautiful summer day and the enduring bonds of friendship. Ages 3-7. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The happy family of Otter, Mole, Hare, and Fox is desolated when hard-working Fox becomes ill and dies. "Wintry sadness" settles over and prevails in their home, until Squirrel comes to visit one day. As they remember Fox together, they recall the funny things he did and begin to laugh again. They plan a special garden and activities to preserve their good memories. So in their hearts Fox remains. Although the story is about animals on the surface, it is of course really about helping children deal with grief. The front end-papers show the quartet's close relationship, while the back end-papers show only the remaining trio sitting on a hill, contentedly gazing into the open future. Watercolor scenes combine some fanciful details of the living style of the anthropomorphic characters in the changing seasons. Double-page scenes plus smaller pictures create a complete visual narrative supplying much of the emotional content of the initial grief and then the happier memories. 2004, Harcourt, Ages 3 to 7.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
PreS-Gr 3-Otter, Mole, Fox, and Hare share a house in the woods. When Fox dies, the other three struggle with their grief. By remembering the love, wisdom, and support he showed them and the funny things he used to do, they are able to create a memorial for him. As they sit in the garden they made in honor of him, they realize that Fox is with them "always and forever" in their memories and in their laughter. Durant's sensitive text explores a difficult topic without rushing the characters' stages of grief. Gliori's large and appealing watercolors are charming and warm. Unfortunately, Hare and Fox look too much alike, which may confuse some young readers. The tone is similar to Susan Varley's Badger's Parting Gifts (HarperCollins, 1984), but here Fox's death, being much more literal, is less abstract. This story will fill requests for books to share with children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.-Rachel G. Payne, Brooklyn Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.