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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Jane, the Fox and Me
by Fanny Britt
Age Range: 9-11
Hélène has been ostracised by the girls who were once her friends and she has no idea why. They taunt her in the playground and on the bus home – ‘waiting for the bus … is like waiting to die’ she thinks. Spiteful comments are written on the lavatory door – ‘Helene weighs 216’ and ‘she smells like BO’. She feels like an ‘outsider but telling her mother is not an option because she would only worry.
Hélène takes refuge in her favourite book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. She regards it as the best book she’s ever read, even though she is only half way through it. When reading Hélène is able to lose herself and forget everything.
Things get a whole lot worse when there is a school trip that Hélène must go on. She finds herself in the ‘outcasts’ tent which is the farthest from the main cabin – ‘from there to here is like changing countries’ she remarks. One night Hélène encounters a beautiful red fox that she instantly feels a connection with – ‘that same look in another human’s eyes and my soul would be theirs for sure’, it’s but a fleeting moment that is destroyed when another girl chases it off.
But then a new girl joins the ‘outcasts’ tent – Géraldine. Suddenly there is a glimmer of hope in Hélène’s world as it slowly changes from grey to one of colour.
Jane, the Fox and Me is a visually stunning graphic novel that is painfully evocative and brutally honest. It demonstrates the cruelty of emotional bullying, how demoralising it can be, the struggle to cope and finding a way to escape from it, whether through a fictional character, a meeting with the fox or a burgeoning friendship.
Fanny Britt’s sharp text, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, is adept at conveying emotion in a few words and together with Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations it is a powerful combination that really speaks volumes. Narrated Hélène from the opening page – ‘There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today’ – her loneliness is palpable and the accompanying artwork in shades of black and grey demonstrate the dark space that she occupies except for the brief interludes when she is immersed in her book which is captured in colour – a lush green forest and references to Jane Eyre depicted in different shades of red or the bright red of the fox. It cleverly shows the reader that this is outside the shades of grey and brown world that she normally inhabits. On Helene's return there is now the odd burst of colour in an otherwise monochrome landscape leading to the final pages which are suddenly a blaze of colour.
Jane, the Fox and Me is an incredibly powerful graphic novel that is certain to have an impact and leave a lasting impression long after you have put it down.