- Faraway Fox
- written by Jolene Thompson
- illustrated by Justin K. Thompson
- published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
- Roar Score: 4/5
Most picture books with an environmental message (and there are a lot of them) practically hit you over the head with the moral or takeaway. Faraway Fox takes a subtler approach, though it’s still effective and powerful.
The story is told in the first person from the perspective of a small fox, lost and alone in suburbia. As he wanders through backyards, playgrounds, and parking lots, he’s recalling what everyplace was like before it was developed. When he was younger and still with his family.
My mother is a great hunter and taught me well. She’s so fast and so quiet, the prey never hears her coming. . . . I miss her advice.
The book relies on the illustrations to convey how much the fox’s habitat has changed. His narration doesn’t explicitly rail against the consequences of rampant development and habitat loss. It’s a subtle juxtaposition of the fox’s memories with his current reality.
Halfway through the book, though, it becomes obvious that Faraway Fox isn’t all doom and gloom. Hope arrives, of all places, in the form of a construction site for a county wildlife preserve. And then the fox discovers another construction site for a highway wildlife underpass.
This clearly isn’t the United States.
The book not only carries an important conservation message for young ones but also shows practical solutions to the problems we’re creating for wildlife. The last page is an author’s note that discusses wildlife bridges and tunnels that have become relatively popular in (more progressive) places like Canada and the Netherlands.
It’d be great if we saw more of them here in the States. But I highly recommend using this book and the fox’s story as a conversation starter with your kids about practical solutions to these problems that have become so familiar.
And see if they don’t think those bridges and tunnels are brilliant ideas that should be in every state in this country.
(Disclosure: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)