Review first appeared online in February 2017 – now republished here.

Title: Maybe A Fox
Authors: Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children/Middle grade fiction, Contemporary
Book format: Paperback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  Sylvie and Jules.  Jules and Sylvie.
Jules adores her older sister.  Then, into thin air, Sylvie goes missing.  As Jules stumbles into grief, a fox cub is born: a shadow fox, spirit and animal in one.
The fox hears Jules crying out for her sister, and the air prickles with something unsettled.  As the dark unknown grows, the fates of the girl and the fox cub are about to collide…
A touching and powerful contemporary story of sisterly love and grief, with a twist of magical realism.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  Jules and Sylvie are sisters and best friends. Jules loves rock collecting and Sylvie loves running but one day when Sylvie goes running she doesn’t return. Elsewhere a fox cub is born, one that is more than just a mere animal, one with a special spirit….A spirit that is destined to cross paths with Jules.

This is an intense book aimed at older children and I’m not sure how I feel after reading it. The story is a seemingly simple one, Jules and Sylvie decide to go outside their house before the school bus picks them up to play in the snow and make a snow family, however Sylvie runs off and doesn’t return. Sylvie’s family and friends all plunge into grief and the story is very focused on how Jules is coping.

The story is in three parts and is told in the third person with different chapters focusing on different characters. The whole book is well written but has a bit of sad feel to it as Jules and the others try to cope with the loss of Sylvie. In the meantime there is a story told from the point of view of a fox cub which is happier but there’s no obvious connection at first. As the story progresses it becomes more intense, you feel the grief and sadness that many of the characters are feeling. It wasn’t so sad that you’d cry but a general feeling of sadness. However the ending of the book is where the emotions hit you and it’s hard not to get emotional.

The conclusion of the overall story is good, in fact I was ready to give this book five sweet strawberries as it felt so well done and ended on a happy note. I was crying happy tears too it was so emotionally charged but I felt like it was a good ending for a book with such a sad beginning. However I think the authors went too far and the very last chapter was unnecessary and it’s left the book with a sad ending, so my happy tears quickly turned into sad ones and instead of leaving me happy, this book has left me sad and wondering why it had to end that way. If this had been a book for adults or even teens then it might have felt okay to have such a sad ending but this book is aimed at younger children and I wonder how disturbing this may feel to those kids who are more sensitive like I was at that age. If I’m feeling emotional as an adult I’m not sure how kids much younger would feel.

The book has some lovely images at the start of each chapter. Though it’s all done with black print there are photos of rocks surrounding the word ‘chapter’ and randomly around the start of each chapter or part of the book. The rocks are significant as Jules loves collecting rocks and it’s a nice touch that makes the book feel more special.

Overall I do like this book. The story is very well written, though it did take me a bit of time to get into it at first, and the tale itself is beautiful and amazing and I love the way it all comes together so well. However the last chapter has made the whole experience sad and uncomfortable and it really has spoilt my enjoyment of this otherwise lovely book so I’m dropping a strawberry because of it.

Do you like this book?  what about other books featuring animals or about tough subjects like grief?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂