I had better get back into some books for children as I’m to be a granny next year and love looking at the bright bookshelves full of goodies for younger readers.
This one is by established YA author of ‘My Life As A Bench’ which I loved but moves into the world of foxes in London streets. It is aimed for readers aged 6-11 years old and is delicately illustrated by the author herself.
Adults always seem a bit perturbed by children’s books that feature grisly incidents, but we need look no further than the Fairy Tales of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Anderson to see that children can quite easily cope with a few reality checks about life.
Horace the Fox, our main star of this book, soon finds out that real life has dealt him a few blows. His mother informs him he must now leave home and make his own way in the world to find his father’s place across the city as she has his younger siblings to care for and really ‘there’s no room now in the den.’ We are straight into some heart wrenching scenes and immediately want Horace to survive the trials he’s put through.
Like many animal tales (similarly with animation films) there is soon a cast of good friends and enemies that Horace collects on his journey to try and find a happy ending. Here a rather nasty detective weasel and contract killer snake seem unlikely on the streets of London but their names hint at how fact can be altered into the realms of younger reader fantasies. There’s Weasel Le Hoop and Zig Zag McVitie not to mention some glamorous later fox vizens called Claretina and Loveness to add a bit of romance to the budding coming of age story for Horace.
There are some great if often murky descriptions of the back streets of London, usually as the ever- hungry Horace searches out any old takeaway to ease his hunger pangs. There is also the aside about how sticks (people) chuck rubbish everywhere, waste mounds of edible food at Christmas and generally don’t seem to care about their city environment. Lessons then to be learnt alongside the view that foxes (often seen as town and city vermin) are drawn into such places because their own environments are destroyed and overcrowded. But there is also a lot of humour in the story which carries you through the darker points.
I could easily see this story as a lovely little film. Not reaching the dizzy heights of how ‘Watership Down’ brought rabbits into our consciousness, but foxes are a familiar sight to many of us now in urban settings and children especially will love following Horace’s brave journey. A nice soundtrack and you’ve got a winner!
An interesting personal read with it seems more children’s books to follow by this author. You are never too young to have a story read to you as my grandchild will discover!
Book groups might want to explore this as a genre and also to find ideas for birthday and Christmas presents for young readers in their families.
Thanks to NB and the author for sending out the copy to me for an un biased review.
Horace Fox in the City by Jacqui Hazell
Nowness Books 978-0-9957-268-4-0
Paperback August 2020
Revewed by Philipa Coughlan
Personal read 4*
Group read 4*