BROWNIE GROUNDHOG AND THE FEBRUARY FOX by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Carmen Segovia (Sterling, 2011)
"Don't be silly," said Brownie, wiggling free. "You're too late for breakfast."
"Really?" the fox frowned. "What about lunch?"
"Too early," said Brownie. "You'll just have to wait."
"I hate waiting," said the fox.
"I know what you mean," said Brownie.
A friendship is hard-won as a groundhog moves from prey to precious in the eyes of a hungry fox. Having come out into the open to check his shadow, Brownie is pounced upon by a novice predator who is easily talked out of and tricked out of a meal. When Brownie finally manages to tie the fox to a tree with a red scarf, maybe the fox has learned his lesson, or at least, Brownie's suffered from some mild form of Stockholm Syndrome. What is freaky and ultimately irresistible about this book is the animals, for all of their human banter, are really quite animal-like, sweet and stupid and aggressive in turns...and always down for a good meal. Wintry illustrations with a thoughtful limited palette of burnt umber, white and blue paint are both pretty and fun to look at, featuring figures that mix postures both people-like and very, very canine. Above all, there is something very direct and naturalistic about this story, and children will appreciate the honesty of that bite.
Also of interest:
A ridiculous amount of Groundhog Day books here.
And if you'd like more fox-on-animal action, tune into DON'T FIDGET A FEATHER by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Aladdin), an exciting and laugh-out-loud tale of a "freeze-in-place" contest between a very competitive Gander and Duck that goes dangerously awry when a hungry fox shows up. Move, Gander, move!!! The message is clear: sometimes there's something more important at stake then winning. I like a book that impels children to scream really loudly while you read, that means it's a good story. Wear your earplugs.
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