- The Winter Fox
- written by Timothy Knapman
- illustrated by Rebecca Harry
- published by Nosy Crow / Candlewick Press (2017)
Every year around this time, a bumper crop of winter- and holiday-themed picture books take over the bookstores. Some of them are blatant cash grabs, some are genuinely sweet and worth owning.
The Winter Fox is one that fits into the latter category. Originally published in the UK last year, this edition is distributed in the States by Candlewick Press and only just came out here.
It’s an adorable story of some forest friends preparing for winter, but one of them (the titular fox) is Mr. Procrastination. The Winter Fox is almost a reversal of the classic folk tale The Little Red Hen.
Whereas in the folk tale, the little red hen does all the work and her friends just happily laze about, the fox here is the one who just wants to run and have fun while his friends all prepare for winter. Fox is that one friend we all have who never listens and then is astonished to find himself in a predicament of his own making.
Rabbit, Owl, and Squirrel spent all summer and fall preparing for winter, but fox? Well, he just wants to have fun. So while they’re gathering and storing food and preparing their dens, Fox is perfectly content to chase butterflies and jump in leaves.
Until it’s too late, obviously.
Until he’s left to wander, homeless in the snow, wishing he’d listened to his friends and made better decisions. It’s not until a solution literally bonks him on the head (out of nowhere) that he’s able to fix his problem.
The magical solution (an actual box full of food and toys) allows him not only to secure himself for the winter but also to give back and thank his friends. It’s quite a gift, to be sure. The gift is so plentiful, in fact, that it gives Fox everything he needs. Yes – everything. In the end, “he was never cold, or hungry, or lonely ever again.”
Wow. That’s some gift.
In terms of a message, the story honestly leaves a bit to be desired. The solution to Fox’s problems magically falls from the sky with no explanation. It requires absolutely no thought, perseverance, or hard work on his part. I’m not sure what moral children will get from this tale, other than it’s fine to just procrastinate and wait for a magical “someone else” to solve your problems for you.
Even after he takes and shares the food with his friends (good decision), Fox’s friends still do most of the work of getting him ready for the winter to come (not-so-good decision).
Rebecca Harry’s illustrations are adorable, though, and make the book a pure delight. Even when he’s running around, making poor decisions, and driving his friends crazy, Fox is just too cute to resist. In addition, a reflective coating on the pages makes the snow and winter wonderland sparkle and dance off the page.
The Winter Fox is a fun book for the winter months, and it’s also a perfect conversation starter about making good decisions, the danger of procrastination, and not taking our friends for granted.
(Disclosure: Candlewick provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)