|Maybe a fox|
Author: Appelt, Kathi
An otherworldly fox is born to help eleven-year-old Jules, who is grieving over the death of her sister.
|Added Entry - Personal Name:||McGhee, Alison|
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.90
Points: 5.0 Quiz: 180476
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: 10.0 Quiz: 67153
Kirkus Reviews (12/15/15)
School Library Journal (01/01/16)
Booklist (+) (12/15/15)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/02/16)
The Hornbook (00/01/16)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 12/15/2015 *Starred Review* Among Jules and Sylvie Sherman’s dad’s Do Not rules is that they are never to go near the Slip, a dangerous point where the Whippoorwill River surges beneath the ground before reemerging downstream. However, this wild, watery place in the woods behind their Vermont home holds a particular allure: it is the perfect place to throw wish rocks. Jules, 11, is a rock hound who loves sorting her collection into “Sherman Galaxies” of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock, but wish rocks are a category unto themselves. These rocks are for writing a burning wish that might just come true when cast into the Slip. Sylvie, 12, is a runner whose burning wish is to run faster; but one morning when she doesn’t return from a last-minute dash to the Slip, Jules can only find a tree root poking out of the path, followed by a gash in the snow that ends at the river. And just like that, Sylvie is gone forever. Elsewhere in the forest, a fox gives birth to three kits and knows that her little girl, Senna, is Kennen—spiritually connected to another living creature. As Senna grows and learns “a thousand years of fox knowledge” from the smells and sounds around her, Jules and her father struggle to cope with Sylvie’s death, their grief compounded by the lingering loss of the girls’ mother a few years earlier. Jules runs through what-if and if-only scenarios that would have kept her sister alive, alternately feeling despair and anger over what has transpired. Her inability to control her emotions rings true, and readers will empathize with her desire to find her feet in a world “After Sylvie.” Despite the heavy nature of the story, it maintains a forward momentum and resists taking on a brooding atmosphere. This is due in part to the way the narrative shifts, drawing on different characters’ experiences with death. The girls’ friend Sam had a burning wish for his brother, Elk, to return safely from Afghanistan; though he did, Elk’s best friend did not, and Jules and Elk form a quiet camaraderie in their search for solace. Rules and rituals evolve to remember departed loved ones, create order, and stay safe: Jules sorts her rocks, and her dad devises more Do Nots. Throughout, Jules chases the question “Where do you go when you die?” It’s a query she and Sylvie used to answer with the Maybe game, postulating, “Maybe you fly away like a bluebird,” or maybe you simply shrink until no one can see you. Once Sylvie dies, this question is joined by another: why did Sylvie want to run so fast? Jules’ sister had always kept this a secret, but both answers, as it turns out, are wrapped up in Senna. Many readers will quickly guess the connection between Senna, Sylvie, and Jules, but the exact implications to the plot are not as easily discerned. Additionally, the concept of Kennen imparts another avenue for the authors to explore grief, offering a comforting spiritual explanation that is not tied to religion. While this may not resonate with everyone, the fantasy element inherent to Senna’s story helps keep the book’s serious aspects from overwhelming young readers. Neither author is a stranger to writing poignant animal stories that tackle weighty themes, as Appelt proved in her Newbery Honor Book, The Underneath (2008), and McGhee showed in Firefly Hollow (2015). Together, they create a delicate world that effortlessly impresses itself upon the reader. It is a world where bad things can happen for no good reason, where catching sight of a fox means luck, where love transcends all boundaries, and maybe death doesn’t have to be an ending. - Copyright 2015 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 01/01/2016 Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Sylvie, the older of the two Sherman sisters, is the runner, the fast, impetuous one. A year younger, Jules is a rock collector who takes her time to think things through. The morning of the last snowfall of the season in rural Vermont, Jules and Sylvie build a miniature snow family before getting ready for school. Sylvie wants to be fast, "so fast that…" but she never finishes that sentence, and Jules isn't sure why her sister is so focused on speed. After playing in the snow, Sylvie darts off into the woods to throw a wishing rock into the Slip—and that's the last time anyone sees her. At that moment, a fox kit is born. One of a litter of three, this kit is a "kennen," a being that has an understanding that others do not possess and a destiny that it cannot escape. It's tied to Jules and to Sylvie. Although Sylvie's body is not found, everyone knows she drowned in the river and is gone. Jules thinks of it as "the After Sylvie" time, and she and her father grieve together, struggling to cobble together some hope for the future. There are some heavy elements in this beautifully written middle grade novel: the death of Sylvie and Jules's mother several years before the story begins, the devastating disappearance/death of Sylvie, and the grieving of a neighbor who was deployed with his best friend to Afghanistan. But despite these sad events, the descriptions of rural Vermont, the sense of caring within Jules's community, and the relationship between the two girls and their father make for a book that is both raw and hopeful and one that readers won't soon forget. Through a dual narrative—one from Jules, the other from the "kennen" fox kit—the authors convey an understanding that grief is a journey and that a person can, even after terrible loss, feel the warm sun, smile once again, and make wishes for the future. VERDICT Highly recommended for all middle grade collections.—Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.