Last week we mentioned that those of us who serve on literature award committees noticed recent picturebook releases about foxes piqued our interest. We wondered if this representation or characterization of the fox had changed from the traditional portrayals of foxes. Are fox characters more empathetic? We started with The Fox and the Wild and then looked at The Fox Wish. This week we give our takes on Pandora by Victoria Turnbull.
DESIREE: Pandora is the exact opposite of the stereotypical fox. She lives alone, in “a land of broken things.” Instead of destroying property, she saves and restores that which the world discards. Rather than hunting small animals, she heals them. On the book’s cover, Pandora gently holds a tiny bird. The story of how the bird crashes into her world, is injured, and then nurtured back to life by her, is beautifully told through both text and illustrations. It is interesting to see a fox portrayed as having such compassion. I find her almost maternal in nature.
MARIA: After seeing the book cover, I noticed two potential story lines. First, a gentle story about friendship and compassion where a fox named Pandora befriends a bird. Second, a more twisted narrative about a fox who pretends to befriend a bird. My first prediction was guided by the soft lines and colors used to depict the characters as well as their body language and facial expressions. As my second prediction emerged from connections to popular cultures that caution us not to open a Pandora’s box. After reading the book multiple times, I wonder if the name Pandora still signifies “surprise” since the reader is encountering a new kind of fox; a fox who holds her treasures with care, and a fox who repairs things, rather than breaking or eating them.
DESIREE: I don’t mean to read too much into this, but I do wonder if Turnbull drew on the historical treatment of the fox when she wrote and illustrated this book. That is, Pandora is portrayed as being far removed from the land of living things. She is deeply saddened when the bird leaves her and so filled with joy when it returns. I wonder if the author considered how foxes have been isolated characters in most children’s books. What are your thoughts?
MARIA: The first time I read this story I was so captivated by the story line that I paid little attention to whether or not the main character was a fox. It could have been a dog, wolf or any other similar four-legged animal. Desiree, your question makes me wonder about Pandora’s resiliency living in a lonely world. She copes with a lifeless world full of things “that people had left behind.” She gathers and repairs what people abandon and presumably broke.
Interestingly enough, she rejoices as her world turns into “a land of living things,” thanks to the help of the blue bird. In this sense, this book offers a powerful critique to the ways in which humans interact with the natural world, leaving many animals alone in uninhabitable spaces. As the book suggests, many of these animals will die, while a few will resist and adapt. Whether or not the author intentionally depicted a fox alone in order to follow prior patterns in the representation of foxes in children’s literature, foxes have been considered savvy, tricky, strong, persuasive and persistent, which we could argue are useful characteristics for survival.
Author: Victoria Turnbull
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: April, 04 2017
This is the third installment of January’s My Take/Your Take. To follow the whole conversation, start with The Fox and the Wild and then read The Fox Wish. Check back next Wednesday for the fourth installment.