Sunday 6 December 2015

The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Picture from
Today I found myself in Waterstones. Near the entrance, there was a table presenting the 'Waterstones book of the year' - a beautifully bound, beautifully presented fairytale picture book. I assume it is meant for grown-ups, but it does not actually have any themes that are any more grown up than picture books for young children. This makes it and strange and unusual read.

As I read it, I felt very much like I was reading a book written for young children. All the hallmarks of children's picture books were there: the repetition, the sleepy rhythm, the playfulness with the way the text appeared on some pages... I have read very similar books with friends' five year olds. The only real difference is that The Fox and the Star is textile-bound, and a bit more grown up in its artistic sensibilities and love of patterns. This makes it a beautiful object, but one so posh that you probably won't want to give into the grubby little hands of young kids...

The book is basically continuing the infantisation of adults, much like the recent fad for coloring books. There are, of course, many picture books and graphic novels that are a bit ambiguous about the age group of the people meant to read them. Shaun Tan's picture books might - perhaps - appeal to some children, but seem to be much richer in some ways, so they resonate with adults in ways that children's books don't, usually. Emily Carroll's Through The Woods is a stunning work of art, utterly engrossing for adults and young adults, and probably far too scary for children. The Fox and the Star, on the other hand, is aesthetically grown up, but textually infantile. This, to me, makes it unsatisfying. There are maybe 300 words in the story, and they are not particularly evocative words. (If I had to choose between The Gruffalo and The Fox and the Star, I fear The Gruffalo would win out, hands down).  

There are more beautiful graphic and picture stories for grownups, with more depth and richer themes.

The Fox and the Star seems to be primarily a gift book. It looks beautiful, it'll be pretty on any shelf, but it's not satisfying to read for grown ups and too precious an object to be meant for children.

Rating: 2.5/5

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