As we mentioned last week, several of us serve on literature award committees and noticed that in 2017 publishers released interesting books about foxes. We wondered if the representation or characterization of the fox had changed from the traditional portrayal as a sly personality in trickster tales, classics or modern tales. Are fox characters more empathetic? Last week we looked at The Fox and the Wild. This week we take on The Fox Wish by Kimiko Aman.
MEGAN: This story was originally published in Japan in 2003 but not published in the U.S. until 2017. The theme of the story is having a wish magically come true. A little girl named Roxie wishes for a game to play, and when she leaves her jump rope in the park, it goes missing. When Roxie and her little brother Lukie return to the park to find her jump rope, they come across a group of foxes attempting to jump rope. The little foxes are good jumpers, but their tails keep getting caught in the rope. A little fox asks Roxie to help them jump rope. Roxie shows them how to keep their tails straight up their backs, and they have instant success jumping rope. The sun is setting and Lukie states that they must return home, however, when Roxie goes to get her jump rope, the little fox named Roxie, states that it is her jump rope. She tells Roxie that she had wished for a game to play and when she and her friend came to the park, there lay the jump rope with her name (Roxie) right on the handle.
Of the three books I read for My Take/Your Take, not one fox falls into the regular traditional pattern of vicious, sly or tricky. In two of the books (this one included) the foxes do appropriate others’ belongings. Though I will state in this case, Roxie the fox did believe that her wish had magically come true. The fact that Roxie the girl and Roxie the fox had the same name lends itself to the fox telling the truth. The fox representation in this tale is innocent.
After reading this Japanese version of a fox, I wonder if foxes (and wolves) have other stereotypes in different cultures and in their literature than the traditional English and German children’s versions. Foxes in many cultures are a symbol of strength, power and speed. Yet the foxes in this story do not ooze any of those characteristics. Foxes typically come out at night, yet these cute foxes are out jumping rope in the middle of the day. In Japan and China, foxes are said to achieve enlightenment or magical powers. This may relate to Roxie the fox making a wish and believing it magically came true.
MARIA: This is an interesting book to read. As you mentioned Megan, the depiction of the foxes are innocent, playful and human. In this story for young children, the foxes demonstrate values and character traits that are often highlighted in educational settings, such as togetherness, sharing, respect, politeness, friendship and empathy. Interesting enough, Roxie the girl is represented as more mature than Roxie the fox when she lets go of her jump rope so the foxes can continue playing. From this perspective, Roxie the girl is positioned as older, maybe more mature, and with a stronger capacity of problem solving and perspective taking.
The use of lines on the illustrations captured my attention right away! Did you notice how the dark pink (almost red) lines serve as contour for the human figures and the blue lines help to delineate the foxes? Red often represents emergency, violence, blood and the Little Red Riding Hood. Light blue is commonly associated with a blue sky, calm, serenity and, at times, safety. In this story, Roxie the fox has blue lines on her eyes, while Roxie the girl has red lines on them. Is this an additional strategy to challenge traditional depictions of foxes as associated with violence and danger? In this depiction, foxes could even be associated with babies.
MEGAN: Their are a lot of myths and stereotypes around foxes. I am wondering if this text set could be used with younger students to engage in conversations about stereotyping, even to define stereotype, and how they are incorrect, and limit the ways in which we view others. It may work to read several older tales in which foxes are portrayed as sly and cunning and then maybe read two or three from this text set and compare and contrast. How would someone describe a fox after reading several older tales? How would someone describe foxes again after reading the newer texts? How could this exercise have larger implications?
MARIA: While portraying a wolf, rather than a fox, I would pair this book with Little Red Riding Hood to explore the use of color on the illustrations to evoke specific emotions. On the book cover of The Fox Wish, Roxie (the girl) wears a distinctive dark pink (almost red) ribbon, while, she watched the little foxes playing with her jump rope. In the Little Red Riding Hood, red on the main character makes her a target in the forest, a target that the wolf wants to eat. Many readers will notice the use of dark pink and blue lines and might inquire about the use of dark pink and red in other books that include foxes. Black is also used in interesting ways. Rather than depicting a burnt forest or the inside of a cave (Fox, Margaret Wild), black is used primarily in the children’s outfits, the contour of the foxes’ ears and paws, and sometimes for the trunks of the trees. In this story, black creates harmony within the palette of colors employed in the entire book, rather than mystery, darkness, loneliness and danger. Paired books and/or text sets could facilitate very interesting conversations and inquiries around the use of these colors and many others in the stories.
Title: The Fox Wish
Author: Kimiko Aman
Illustrator: Komako Sakai
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date Published: March 2017
This is the second installment of January’s My Take/Your Take. To follow the whole conversation, start with The Fox and the Wild. Check back next Wednesday for the third installment.