Jane, the Fox & Me
by Britt, Fanny; Arsenault, Isabelle; Morelli, Christine (TRN); Ouriou, Susan (TRN)

While on a camping trip with her class, Hâeláene, who as the target of bullies is forced to sleep in the "outcasts" tent, finds hope in "Jane Eyre," an encounter with a fox, and the arrival of Gâeraldine, an extroverted classmate.

Fanny Britt is a playwright, author and translator. She has a dozen plays to her credit. She has also translated over fifteen contemporary plays and several other works of literature. She writes children&;s books and has published, among others, the Félicien series with La Courte Échelle. Jane, the Fox and Me is her first graphic novel. She lives in Montreal with her family.

Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator, who has garnered an impressive number of awards and international recognition. She has illustrated several books, including Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin (Governor General&;s Award) and My Letter to the World and Other Poems (Governor General&;s Award Finalist, IRA Children&;s Choices), and she has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running.

Pubescent Hélène sees herself as fat and beleaguered by her more popular and social classmates, so she turns to Jane Eyre to find a model for setting her prospects both high and anywhere other than her immediate circumstances. Britt's well-constructed narrative is achieved sensitively through Arsenault's impressionistic artwork, in which we see that Hélène is a pretty-ordinary-looking little 11-year-old in spite of her self-image. While her everyday life-which has become further burdened by an all-class camping trip-appears in a gray palette, when Hélène daydreams about Jane's life, pastel washes and a vivid red appear. During the camping trip, Hélène comes across a red fox in the woods and begins to make some human friends. After a post-camping trip weigh-in, where she sees she's perfectly normal, Hélène's everyday world also takes on color. An elegant and accessible approach to an important topic, for readers of Erin Dionne's Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies (2009) and other novels about girls learning to cope with their own expectations of themselves. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Lonely young Hélène begins to get out from under her body-image issue with help from a new friend-and Jane Eyre. Weighed down by cruel graffiti ("Hélène weighs 216!"-a figure belied, later, by the "88" on a doctor's scale but not before the damage is done) as well as looks and snickers from her former circle, Hélène walks slump-shouldered and isolated through a dreary world rendered in sepia wash. A class trip to nature camp brings no relief, as it entails a painful expedition to buy a swimsuit ("I'm a sausage") and then exile to the "outcasts' tent." Only following Jane Eyre's growth into a woman "clever, slender and wise" lightens her spirit. Then a brief encounter with a fox and the arrival of Géraldine, an extroverted fellow camper, signal at last the beginnings of a brighter outlook. Hand-lettered but easily legible, her sparely told narrative suits the swiftly drawn look of the art. Ably capturing Hélène's emotional tides, Arsenault portrays her (as a child of plainly average build) in dark sequential panels that give way when she's reading or dreaming to full spreads, usually in subdued tones of orange and blue. Those colors and others show up as highlights in closing scenes that are capped by a final glimpse of the bright fox amid burgeoning greenery. A sensitive and possibly reassuring take on a psychological vulnerability that is all too common and not easily defended. (Graphic novel. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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