Jane, the Fox, and me
Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press
age 8-12, age 13-18
By author: Fanny Britt Illustrated by: Isabelle Arsenault Translators: Susan Ouriou, Christelle Morelli
Synopsis from House of Anasi Press:
Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies – Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship.
Leaving the outcasts’ tent one night, Hélène encounters a fox, a beautiful creature with whom she shares a moment of connection. But when Suzanne Lipsky frightens the fox away, insisting that it must be rabid, Hélène’s despair becomes even more pronounced: now she believes that only a diseased and dangerous creature would ever voluntarily approach her. But then a new girl joins the outcasts’ circle, Géraldine, who does not even appear to notice that she is in danger of becoming an outcast herself. And before long Hélène realizes that the less time she spends worrying about what the other girls say is wrong with her, the more able she is to believe that there is nothing wrong at all.
Adolescence can be difficult to deal with both physically and emotionally. Couple that with the desire to fit in and be liked. Even as an adult I could completely relate to Hélène in Jane, the Fox, and Me. We’ve all been there to some degree. Even our Junior Style Blogger was impacted by Hélène’s story.
Graphic novels sometimes get a bad wrap as something juvenile and not real reading. In the case of Jane, the Fox and Me, the illustrations play just as much a role in portraying Hélène’s feelings as the words that accompany them. The dull grey pencil sketch illustrations mimicking Hélène’s sadness are splashed with colour evoked from reading Jane Austin, the only form of happiness and brightness in Hélène’s day. The use of colour between sadness and happiness is also used to illustrate Hélène’s transition between self-loathing and acceptance and feeling happy in the outside world.
Whether they’ve felt isolated by friends or they have fallen into the popular crowd, I think all girls should read Jane, the Fox, and Me to understand the feeling someone’s words and actions can have on your life, both good and bad.