Coralie Bickford-Smith, the designer behind Penguin Classics’ clothbound reissues, is the author of debut children’s novel The Fox And The Star. The Fox And The Star has been making lots of noise in recent weeks due to its being named Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2015. In fact, this was the reason why I bought it (despite my being decidedly older than its target demographic of 3-5 years old), as I have yet to be disappointed by the winners of these awards since the accolade was first launched in 2011.
Like its Penguin Classics cousins, The Fox And The Star is beautifully presented and designed to be collectible. I can just imagine a young child receiving this as a gift, perhaps with a signed bookplate in it to treasure and keep forever. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, at once simplistic and at the same time ornate – reminiscient of the tiled artwork of the Penguin Classics. The blocky colour scheme also contrasts very nicely with the intricate patterns meaning that the pages are not too busy. Children will love discerning the rabbits hidden amidst the grass, hunting for Fox in the wood and following the words around the page. The writing itself is quite understated for such a gorgeously presented book, but it is a small complaint and I strongly suspect children will be more concerned with the pictures, story and messages than the writing style.
On that note, The Fox And The Star’s strengths lie in its universal message and timelessness. By hinging all of Fox’s happiness on the existence of Star, only for Star to then go out, the reader is able to interpret the meaning of this in a multitude of powerful ways. Perhaps Star represents a person, so a grieving Fox must learn how to continue on without them. Perhaps Star represents Fox’s happiness itself, so when Fox spirals into a pit of depression, he must learn how to regain confidence again. Or perhaps the Star represents innocence and the Fox must now learn to stand up on his own four feet. All of these are rather heavy concepts to present to a child, but it is executed in a subtle, uplifting manner, so as to arm the child for the inevitable disappointments, griefs and sadnesses that await them in later life. As an adult reader, I was also able to pick up some of the story’s darker implications, like Fox hiding underground so still as to appear dead, and then being approached by beetles hoping to feast upon his ‘dead’ body. The best kind of children’s books are the ones that you can go back and read at different stages of your life and discover, recognise or relate to something new every time.
A lovely, beautiful little book that looks great on my bookshelf, and just keeps giving every time I read it. An ideal gift for any child in the run-up to Christmas.
Verdict: 4/5 stars
For more information on Coralie Bickford-Smith and The Fox And The Star, please visit her official website: