Title: A Fox Called Herbert
Author: Margaret Sturton
Illustrator: Margaret Sturton
Publisher: Andersen Press
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Hardback
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Description:  Herbert loves foxes.  He loves foxes so much he will do anything to be one.  But his mummy doesn’t understand: why can’t he just be a good rabbit?

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: This is a lovely picture book with some great illustrations. Herbert likes foxes, so much so that he tries to dress up as one. First he tries to put on pointed ears, but his mum tells him that’s not how rabbits dress and he should be a good rabbit. Later Herbert tries to paint himself red, and has fun with his sister, painted red as a fox, but his mum soon sees what Herbert has done and tells him off, saying that he should be a good rabbit. But Herbert doesn’t want to be a rabbit, and he’ll do anything to show that he isn’t one. The book is around A4ish in size and is a harback filled with thick matt pages of colourful illustrations and text.

A Fox Called Herbert book page image two
©The Strawberry Post

This is an interesting story which seems fun at first but has an obviously deeper message inside. Herbert loves to dress up as a fox and play with the other foxes in the neighbourhood. But every time he tries to look and act like a fox, his mum gets angry at him and tells him to be a good rabbit. One day she has enough of Herbert’s antics and gets very angry asking him why he won’t just be a good rabbit like she’s asked. Herbert ends up yelling back to her, letting her know the reason. The story is quite simple and clearly shows that Herbert feels that he’s different to the body he is in and it ends in a good way with Herbert being accepted for who he really feels he is inside.

The story at first seems a simple and funny one with Herbert dressing up and using different props to look like a fox, and I enjoyed how creative, if a bit naughty, Herbert got at becoming a fox. But unlike the majority of the tale, the ending is short and quite abrupt and to be honest I thought a little bit too simple or obvious for what it was trying to show. While I like the idea of this book showing a parent accepting their child and showing kids that it’s okay to be who you really are inside, and be accepted for it, the book itself feels like it’s missing something more at the end. It feels like more could have been said, more could have happened and it didn’t have to end so abruptly or end so simply, although I do like the last page showing everyone happy.

The illustrations are really sweet. I love all the fun details in the background, especially when Herbert is in the park, the other animal kids in the background and all the different things to spot happening on the page. Herbert and his family look fun too and I love how expressive Herbert looks and how simple and effective all the pictures are at showing what is happening.

A Fox Called Herbert book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

Overall this is a good picture book with a great message of acceptance and being comfortable with who you are. I can’t help but feel though, that the message, with that abrupt ending, is almost too obvious and this book became less about the fun story of Herbert dressing up and doing some silly things, and more about making sure that children and adults understood the message about Herbert being a fox and not a rabbit and the importance of that acceptance of those who feel like they are different than the body they are in. And while that subject is a good one for discussion, especially for children who may feel uncomfortable in their own bodies, I can’t help but feel that some books I’ve read about this subject have managed to do this a little better and with more subtlety and a less abrupt ending.  But it is still a lovely and funny story, especially at the start and I won’t spoil the very funny, and naughty, things that Herbert does to make himself into a fox!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like books for children that feature or focus on personal identity?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂